Investigating the neural processing of spatial summation of pain: the role of A-delta nociceptors

Netta Raz, Yelena Granovsky, Ruth Defrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The underlying mechanism of spatial summation (SS) of pain, an essential component in pain perception and detection, is unknown. Because of the possible differential innervations by A-delta nociceptors and pain sensitivity of hairy and glabrous skin, a comparison of the SS characteristics between the two skin types could contribute to the elucidation of its subserving system and processing. The effect of sex on SS of pain was also evaluated due to the scarcity of information on the subject. Twenty-nine healthy subjects (13 males, 16 females) received four series of heat stimuli of various intensities, in hairy and glabrous skin of the hand using large (27 mm diameter) and small (12 mm) stimulation areas, and the perceived pain intensity (PPI) was rated. A fast temperature increase rate (70°/s) was used in order to selectively activate A-delta nociceptors. The effect of skin type, stimulation intensity and sex on SS and PPI was calculated. Skin type significantly affected PPI and SS of pain; values of both variables were significantly greater in hairy compared with glabrous skin. SS of pain gradually increased concomitantly with stimulation intensity magnitude, to a point when it became saturated in both skin types. Females exhibited greater SS in glabrous skin. It would appear that AMH-II nociceptive fibers in particular subserve SS of pain. Furthermore, SS is increased under stronger stimulation intensities, probably as defense mechanism against tissue damage. Sex differences in dynamic sensory processes such as SS are revealed only under conditions where the phenomenon is subtle (as in glabrous skin).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-413
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • A-delta fiber
  • Pain
  • Sensory processing
  • Skin type
  • Spatial summation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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