J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 83:551-556 doi:10.1136/jnnp-2011-301484
  • Pain
  • Review

Pain perception in humans: use of intraepidermal electrical stimulation

  1. Ryusuke Kakigi
  1. Integrative Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, Aichi, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr K Inui, Integrative Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, Aichi, Japan; inui{at}
  1. Contributors Both authors contributed to this study and qualify as authors in accordance with the ICMJE guidelines for authorship.

  • Received 23 September 2011
  • Revised 12 November 2011
  • Accepted 14 November 2011
  • Published Online First 3 December 2011


The choice of a system specific stimulus is difficult when investigating the human nociceptive system, in contrast with the tactile, auditory and visual systems, because it should be noxious but not actually damage the tissue. The discomfort accompanying system specific stimulation must be kept to a minimum for ethical reasons. In this review, recent progress made in the study of human pain perception using intraepidermal electrical stimulation (IES) is described. Also, whether IES is a viable alternative to laser stimulation is discussed. IES selectively activates Aδ nociceptors, elicits a sharp pricking sensation with minimal discomfort and evokes cortical responses almost identical to those produced by laser stimulation. As IES does not require expensive equipment, and is easy to control, it would seem useful for pain research as well as clinical tests.


  • Funding This study was supported by the Takeda Science Foundation, grant number tokutei II 2008.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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