We investigated how the trajectory of pain patients’ ongoing and fluctuating pain is encoded in the brain. In repeated fMRI sessions, 20 chronic back pain patients and 20 chronic migraineurs were asked to continuously rate the intensity of their endogenous pain. Linear mixed effects models were used to disentangle cortical processes related to pain intensity and to pain intensity changes. We found that the intensity of pain in chronic back pain patients is encoded in the anterior insula, the frontal operculum, and the pons; the change of pain of chronic back pain and chronic migraine patients is mainly encoded in the anterior insula. At the individual level, we identified a more complex picture where each patient exhibited their own signature of endogenous pain encoding. The diversity of the individual cortical signatures of chronic pain encoding results adds to the understanding of chronic pain as a complex and multifaceted disease.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience