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      Music Reduces Pain Unpleasantness: Evidence from an EEG Study

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          Music is sometimes used as an adjunct to pain management. However, there is limited understanding of by what means music modulates pain perception and how the brain responds to nociceptive inputs while listening to music, because clinical practice typically involves the coexistence of multiple therapeutic interventions. To address this challenge, laboratory studies with experimental and control conditions are needed.


          In the present investigation, we delivered nociceptive laser stimuli on 30 participants under three conditions – participants were sitting in silence, listening to their preferred music, or listening to white noise. Differences among conditions were quantified by self-reports of pain intensity and unpleasantness, and brain activity sampled by electroencephalography (EEG).


          Compared with the noise and silence conditions, participants in the music condition reported lower ratings on pain unpleasantness, as reflected by reduced brain oscillations immediately prior to the nociceptive laser stimulus at frequencies of 4–15 Hz in EEG. In addition, participants showed smaller P2 amplitudes in laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) when they were listening to music or white noise in comparison to sitting in silence. These findings suggest that a general modulation effect of sounds on pain, with a specific reduction of pain unpleasantness induced by the positive emotional impact.


          Music may serve as a real-time regulator to modulate pain unpleasantness. Results are discussed in view of current understandings of music-induced analgesia.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Electroencephalographic signatures of attentional and cognitive default modes in spontaneous brain activity fluctuations at rest.

           H Laufs,  K Krakow,  P Sterzer (2003)
          We assessed the relation between hemodynamic and electrical indices of brain function by performing simultaneous functional MRI (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) in awake subjects at rest with eyes closed. Spontaneous power fluctuations of electrical rhythms were determined for multiple discrete frequency bands, and associated fMRI signal modulations were mapped on a voxel-by-voxel basis. There was little positive correlation of localized brain activity with alpha power (8-12 Hz), but strong and widespread negative correlation in lateral frontal and parietal cortices that are known to support attentional processes. Power in a 17-23 Hz range of beta activity was positively correlated with activity in retrosplenial, temporo-parietal, and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices. This set of areas has previously been characterized by high but coupled metabolism and blood flow at rest that decrease whenever subjects engage in explicit perception or action. The distributed patterns of fMRI activity that were correlated with power in different EEG bands overlapped strongly with those of functional connectivity, i.e., intrinsic covariations of regional activity at rest. This result indicates that, during resting wakefulness, and hence the absence of a task, these areas constitute separable and dynamic functional networks, and that activity in these networks is associated with distinct EEG signatures. Taken together with studies that have explicitly characterized the response properties of these distributed cortical systems, our findings may suggest that alpha oscillations signal a neural baseline with "inattention" whereas beta rhythms index spontaneous cognitive operations during conscious rest.
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            Brain states: top-down influences in sensory processing.

            All cortical and thalamic levels of sensory processing are subject to powerful top-down influences, the shaping of lower-level processes by more complex information. New findings on the diversity of top-down interactions show that cortical areas function as adaptive processors, being subject to attention, expectation, and perceptual task. Brain states are determined by the interactions between multiple cortical areas and the modulation of intrinsic circuits by feedback connections. In perceptual learning, both the encoding and recall of learned information involves a selection of the appropriate inputs that convey information about the stimulus being discriminated. Disruption of this interaction may lead to behavioral disorders, including schizophrenia.
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                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                13 December 2019
                : 12
                : 3331-3342
                [1 ]CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology , Beijing, People’s Republic of China
                [2 ]Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences , Beijing, People’s Republic of China
                [3 ]Department of Psychology, Macquarie University , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
                [4 ]ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Li Hu CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology , Beijing100101, People’s Republic of ChinaTel +86 18084053555Fax +86-10-84249369 Email huli@psych.ac.cn
                © 2019 Lu et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 2, References: 67, Pages: 12
                Original Research


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