Sensorimotor peak alpha frequency is a reliable biomarker of prolonged pain sensitivity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Andrew Furman
  • Mariya Prokhorenko
  • Michael Keaser
  • Jing Zhang
  • Shuo Chen
  • David Seminowicz


Previous research has observed that the speed of alpha band oscillations (8-12 Hz range) recorded during resting electroencephalography is slowed in chronic pain patients. While this slowing may ref lect pathological changes that occur during the chronification of pain, an alternative explanation is that healthy individuals with slower alpha oscillations are more sensitive to prolonged pain, and by extension, more susceptible to developing chronic pain. To test this hypothesis, we examined the relationship between the pain-free, resting alpha oscillation speed of healthy individuals and their sensitivity to two models of prolonged pain, Phasic Heat Pain and Capsaicin Heat Pain, at two visits separated by 8 weeks on average (n=61 Visit 1, n=46 Visit 2).We observed that the speed of an individual's pain-free alpha oscillations was negatively correlated with sensitivity to both models and that this relationship was reliable across short (minutes) and long (weeks) timescales. Furthermore, the speed of pain-free alpha oscillations can successfully identify the most pain sensitive individuals, which we validated on data from a separate, independent study. These results suggest that alpha oscillation speed is a reliable biomarker of prolonged pain sensitivity with potential for prospectively identifying pain sensitivity in the clinic.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2020. Copyright: Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6069-6082
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
Early online date27 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • alpha, EEG, individual alpha frequency, pain sensitivity, prolonged pain, Pain sensitivity, Alpha, Prolonged pain, Individual alpha frequency