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Objective: The purpose of this research was to assess the functional brain activity and perceptual rating of innocuous somatic pressure stimulation before and after exercise rehabilitation in patients with chronic pain.
Materials and methods: Eleven chronic pain patients and eight healthy pain-free controls completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic exercise intervention. Perceptual rating of standardized somatic pressure stimulation (2 kg) on the right anterior mid-thigh and brain responses during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were assessed at pre- and postexercise rehabilitation.
Results: There was a significant difference in the perceptual rating of innocuous somatic pressure stimulation between the chronic pain and control groups (P=0.02) but no difference following exercise rehabilitation. Whole brain voxel-wise analysis with correction for multiple comparisons revealed trends for differences in fMRI responses between the chronic pain and control groups in the superior temporal gyrus (chronic pain . control, corrected P=0.30), thalamus, and caudate (control . chronic, corrected P=0.23). Repeated measures of the regions of interest (5 mm radius) for blood oxygen level-dependent signal response revealed trend differences for superior temporal gyrus (P=0.06), thalamus (P=0.04), and caudate (P=0.21). Group-by-time interactions revealed trend differences in the caudate (P=0.10) and superior temporal gyrus (P=0.29).
Conclusion: Augmented perceptual and brain responses to innocuous somatic pressure stimulation were shown in the chronic pain group compared to the control group; however, 12-weeks of exercise rehabilitation did not significantly attenuate these responses.