Do words hurt? Brain activation during the processing of pain-related words

Previous studies suggested that areas of the pain matrix of the human brain are recruited by the process-ing of pain-related environmental cues such as pain-related pictures or descriptors of pain. However, it is still sketchy whether those activations are specific to the pain-relevance of the stimuli or simply reflect a general effect of negative valence or increased arousal. The present study investigates the neural mech- anisms underlying the processing of pain-related, negative, positive, and neutral words. Pain-related words were matched to negative words regarding valence and arousal, and to positive words regarding arousal. Sixteen healthy subjects were scanned during two tasks, imagination and distraction, using func-
tional MRI. When subjects were instructed to image a situation associated with the word presented (imagination task), we found increased activation within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), inferior patietal gyri (IPG), and precuneus when processing pain-related words compared to other words.
explained by their valence or arousal.

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