Brain activity for spontaneous pain of postherpetic neuralgia and its modulation by lidocaine patch therapy

P. Y. Geha, M. N. Baliki, D. R. Chialvo, R. N. Harden, J. A. Paice, A. V. Apkarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a debilitating chronic pain condition, yet there is a lack of knowledge regarding underlying brain activity. Here we identify brain regions involved in spontaneous pain of PHN (n = 11) and determine its modulation with Lidoderm therapy (patches of 5% lidocaine applied to the PHN affected body part). Continuous ratings of fluctuations of spontaneous pain during fMRI were contrasted to ratings of fluctuations of a bar observed during scanning, at three sessions: (1) pre-treatment baseline, (2) after 6 h of Lidoderm treatment, and (3) after 2 weeks of Lidoderm use. Overall brain activity for spontaneous pain of PHN involved affective and sensory-discriminative areas: thalamus, primary and secondary somatosensory, insula and anterior cingulate cortices, as well as areas involved in emotion, hedonics, reward, and punishment: ventral striatum, amygdala, orbital frontal cortex, and ventral tegmental area. Generally, these activations decreased at sessions 2 and 3, except right anterior insular activity which increased with treatment. The sensory and affective activations only responded to the short-term treatment (6 h of Lidoderm); while the ventral striatum and amygdala (reward-related regions) decreased mainly with longer-term treatment (2 weeks of Lidoderm). Pain properties: average magnitude of spontaneous pain, and responses on Neuropathic Pain Scale (NPS), decreased with treatment. The ventral striatal and amygdala activity best reflected changes in NPS, which was modulated only with longer-term treatment. The results show a specific brain activity pattern for PHN spontaneous pain, and implicate areas involved in emotions and reward as best reflecting changes in pain with treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-100
Number of pages13
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Anterior cingulate
  • Chronic pain
  • Insula
  • Thalamus
  • Ventral striatum
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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