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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00394

Morphine Attenuates fNIRS Signal Associated with Painful Stimuli in the Medial Frontopolar Cortex (medial BA 10)

 Ke Peng1, 2, 3*, Meryem A. Yucel3, 4,  Sarah C. Steele1, 2, 3, Edward A. Bittner5, Christopher M. Aasted1, 2, 3, Mark A. Hoeft5,  Arielle Lee1, 2, 3, Edward E. George5, David A. Boas3, 4, Lino Becerra1, 2, 3 and  David Borsook1, 2, 3
  • 1Harvard Medical School, United States
  • 2Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University, United States
  • 3Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, United States
  • 4Boston University, United States
  • 5Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, United States

Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive optical imaging method that provides continuous measure of cortical brain functions. One application has been its use in the evaluation of pain. Previous studies have delineated a deoxygenation process associated with pain in the medial anterior prefrontal region, more specifically, the medial Brodmann Area 10 (BA 10). Such response to painful stimuli has been consistently observed in awake, sedated and anesthetized patients. In this study, we administered oral morphine (15 mg) or placebo to 14 healthy male volunteers with no history of pain or opioid abuse in a crossover double blind design, and performed fNIRS scans prior to and after the administration to assess the effect of morphine on the medial BA 10 pain signal. Morphine is the gold standard for inhibiting nociceptive processing, most well described for brain effects on sensory and emotional regions including the insula, the somatosensory cortex (the primary somatosensory cortex, S1, and the secondary somatosensory cortex, S2), and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Our results showed an attenuation effect of morphine on the fNIRS-measured pain signal in the medial BA 10, as well as in the contralateral S1 (although observed in a smaller number of subjects). Notably, the extent of signal attenuation corresponded with the temporal profile of the reported plasma concentration for the drug. No clear attenuation by morphine on the medial BA 10 response to innocuous stimuli was observed. These results provide further evidence for the role of medial BA 10 in the processing of pain, and also suggest that fNIRS may be used as an objective measure of drug-brain profiles independent of subjective reports.

Keywords: Analgesia, functional near infrared spectroscopy, Morphine, Nociception, Pharamacokinetics, Brodmann area 10

Received: 21 Jun 2018; Accepted: 12 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Mingzhou Ding, University of Florida, United States

Reviewed by:

Noman Naseer, Air University, Pakistan
Paola Pinti, University College London, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Peng, Yucel, Steele, Bittner, Aasted, Hoeft, Lee, George, Boas, Becerra and Borsook. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ke Peng, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States,