Misra and Coombes
Human neuroimaging and virus-tracing studies in monkey predict that motor control and pain processes should overlap in anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), but there is currently no direct evidence that this is the case. We used a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm to examine brain activity while subjects performed a motor control task, experienced a pain-eliciting stimulus on their hand, and performed the motor control task while also experiencing the pain-eliciting stimulus. Our experiment produced 3 novel results. First, group-level analyses showed that when separate trials of motor control and pain processing were performed, overlapping functional activity was found in the same regions of aMCC, supplementary motor area (SMA), anterior insula, and putamen. Secondly, increased activity was found in the aMCC and SMA when motor control and pain processing occurred simultaneously. Thirdly, individual-level analyses showed that 93% of subjects engaged the same region of aMCC during separate trials of motor control and pain processing irrespective of differences in the sulcal/gyral morphology of the cingulate cortex across individuals. These observations provide direct evidence in humans that the same region of aMCC is engaged for motor control and pain processing.