The midbrain central gray best suppresses chronic pain with electrical stimulation at very low pulse rates in two human cases

Ian D. Hentall, Corneliu C. Luca, Eva Widerstrom-Noga, Alberto Vitores, Letitia D. Fisher, Alberto Martinez-Arizala, Jonathan R. Jagid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Deep brain stimulation in the midbrain's central gray can relieve neuropathic pain in man, but for unclear reasons sometimes fails intraoperatively or in early weeks. Here we describe continuous bilateral stimulation in the central gray of two subjects with longstanding, severe neuropathic pain from spinal cord injury. Stimulation parameters were recursively adjusted over many weeks to optimize analgesia while minimizing adverse effects. In early weeks, adjustments were made in periodic office visits; subjects later selected ad libitum at home among several blinded choices while rating pain twice daily. Both subjects received significantly better pain relief when stimulus pulse rates were low. The best relief occurred with 2 Hz cycled on for 1 s and off for 2 s. After inferior parameters were set, pain typically climbed slowly over 1-2 days; superior parameters led to both slow and fast improvements. Over many weeks of stimulation at low pulse rates, both subjects experienced significantly less interference from pain with sleep. One subject, with major pain relief, also showed less interference with social/recreational ability and mood; the other subject, despite minor pain relief, experienced a significantly positive global impression of change. Oscillopsia, the only observed complication of stimulation, disappeared at low mean pulse rates (≤3/s). These subjects' responses are not likely to be unique even if they are uncommon. Thus daily or more frequent pain assessment, combined with slower periodic adjustment of stimulation parameters that incorporate mean pulse rates about one per second, will likely improve success with this treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Periventricular gray
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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