In six healthy subjects cortical potentials were evoked by rapidly changing heating or cooling stimuli to the hand. Recordings were made from the contralateral scalp area overlying the sensori-motor cortex, referred to a frontal reference. The potential averaged from 25 stimuli comprised a large positive wave with a mean amplitude of 9.2, SD 1.1 microV for heat and 8.8 SD 1.2 micro V for cold stimulation. The heat evoked potentials had longer peak latencies (range: 280-350 ms) than those elicited by cold stimuli (range: 178-200 ms). A lower amplitude positive wave of a longer latency was also recorded to both modes of stimulation over the corresponding ipsilateral cortex. Cortical thermal evoked potentials were absent in two patients, one with severe selective small fibre neuropathy and the other with syringomyelia, both of whom had high thermal thresholds demonstrated by the technique of Jamal et al. Cerebral potentials evoked by thermal stimuli may represent an alternative approach to the investigation of the central projections of the human small fibre system with both clinical and research potential.
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