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.
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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.