Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Multisensory interactions can produce analgesic effects. In particular, viewing one's own body reduces pain levels, perhaps because of changes in connectivity between visual areas specialized for body representation, and sensory areas underlying pain perception. We tested the causal role of the extrastriate visual cortex in triggering visually induced analgesia by modulating the excitability of this region with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Anodal, cathodal, or sham tDCS (2 mA, 10 min) was administered to 24 healthy participants over the right occipital or over the centro-parietal areas thought to be involved in the sensory processing of pain. Participants were required to rate the intensity of painful electrical stimuli while viewing either their left hand or an object occluding the left hand, both before and immediately after tDCS. We found that the analgesic effect of viewing the body was enhanced selectively by anodal stimulation of the occipital cortex. The effect was specific for the polarity and the site of stimulation. The present results indicate that visually induced analgesia may depend on neural signals from the extrastriate visual cortex.