Is there a cortical representation of pain?
Yes, there is a cortical representation of pain. Traditional teaching suggested that the cortex was not necessary for the experience of pain. This was based on clinical studies wherein stimulation rarely produced pain and large lesions did not completely disrupt the pain experience. However, imaging studies with positron emission tomography (PET) or functional magnetic resonance imaging have identified several cortical regions that are activated when humans experience pain. Among these are the somatosensory cortex, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and the insular cortex. This distributed processing in the cortex clearly reflects the complex nature of the pain experience, which includes sensory discriminative, affective, and cognitive aspects. Lesions of any single region may thus not be sufficient to eliminate pain.