Modulation of the Somatosensory Evoked Potential by Attention and Spinal Cord Stimulation

Guiomar Niso, Marleen C. Tjepkema-Cloostermans, Mathieu W.P.M. Lenders, Cecile C. de Vos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Introduction: Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a last-resort treatment for patients with intractable chronic pain in whom pharmacological and other treatments have failed. Conventional tonic SCS is accompanied by tingling sensations. More recent stimulation protocols like burst SCS are not sensed by the patient while providing similar levels of pain relief. It has been previously reported that conventional tonic SCS can attenuate sensory-discriminative processing in several brain areas, but that burst SCS might have additional effects on the medial, motivational-affective pain system. In this explorative study we assessed the influence of attention on the somatosensory evoked brain responses under conventional tonic SCS as well as burst SCS regime. Methods: Twelve chronic pain patients with an implanted SCS device had 2-weeks evaluation periods with three different SCS settings (conventional tonic SCS, burst SCS, and sham SCS). At the end of each period, an electro-encephalography (EEG) measurement was done, at which patients received transcutaneous electrical pulses at the tibial nerve to induce somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP). SEP data was acquired while patients were attending the applied pulses and while they were mind wandering. The effects of attention as well as SCS regimes on the SEP were analyzed by comparing amplitudes of early and late latencies at the vertex as well as brain activity at full cortical maps. Results: Pain relief obtained by the various SCS settings varied largely among patients. Early SEP responses were not significantly affected by attention nor SCS settings (i.e., burst, tonic, and sham). However, late SEP responses (P300) were reduced with tonic and burst SCS: conventional tonic SCS reduced P300 brain activity in the unattended condition, while burst SCS reduced P300 brain activity in both attended and unattended conditions. Conclusion: Burst spinal cord stimulation for the treatment of chronic pain seems to reduce cortical attention that is or can be directed to somatosensory stimuli to a larger extent than conventional spinal cord stimulation treatment. This is a first step in understanding why in selected chronic pain patients burst SCS is more effective than tonic SCS and how neuroimaging could assist in personalizing SCS treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number694310
JournalFrontiers in neurology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • attention
  • burst stimulation
  • chronic pain
  • electro-encephalography
  • neuromodulation
  • somatosensory evoked potential
  • spinal cord stimulation

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