Brain Communications, 2021
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Abstract Vanneste & De Ridder introduce a new concept of chronic pain as a brain imbalance disorder, demonstrating that pain is reflected by an abnormal ratio between frontal brain areas, that goes together with decreased communication between these areas, suggesting the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex as the culprit. Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond the expected period of healing. The subjective experience of chronic pain results from pathological brain network interactions, rather than from persisting physiological sensory input of nociceptors. We hypothesize that pain is an imbalance between pain evoking dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and somatosensory cortex and pain suppression (i.e., pregenual anterior cingulate cortex). This imbalance can be measured objectively by current density ratios between pain input and pain inhibition. A balance between areas involved in pain input and pain suppression requires communication, which can be objectively identified by connectivity measures, both functional and effective connectivity. In patients with chronic neuropathic pain electroencephalography is performed with source localization demonstrating that pain is reflected by an abnormal ratio between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, somatosensory cortex and pregenual anterior cingulate cortex. Functional connectivity demonstrates decreased communication between these areas, and effective connectivity puts the culprit at the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, suggesting that the problem is related to abnormal behavioral relevance attached to the pain. In conclusion, chronic pain can be considered as an imbalance between pain input and pain suppression.