Cortical dynamics of movement-evoked pain in chronic low back pain

Wei-En Wang  1 Rachel L M Ho  1 Bryan Gatto  2 Susanne M van der Veen  3 Matthew K Underation  3 James S Thomas  3 Ajay B Antony  4 Stephen A Coombes  1

Abstract: Although experimental pain alters neural activity in the cortex, evidence of changes in neural activity in individuals with chronic low back pain (cLBP) remains scarce and results are inconsistent. One of the challenges in studying cLBP is that the clinical pain fluctuates over time and often changes during movement. The goal of the present study was to address this challenge by recording high-density electroencephalography (HD-EEG) data during a full-body reaching task to understand neural activity during movement-evoked pain. HD-EEG data were analysed using independent component analyses, source localization and measure projection analyses to compare neural oscillations between individuals with cLBP who experienced movement-evoked pain and pain-free controls. We report two novel findings. First, movement-evoked pain in individuals with cLBP was associated with longer reaction times, delayed peak velocity and greater movement variability. Second, movement-evoked pain was associated with an attenuated reduction in beta power in the premotor cortex and supplementary motor area. Our observations move the field forward by revealing attenuated disinhibition in prefrontal motor areas during movement-evoked pain in cLBP.