Background: Chronic neuropathic pain associated with peripheral neuropathies cannot be attributed solely to lesions of peripheral sensory axons and likely involves alteration in the processing of nociceptive information in the central nervous system in most patients. Few data are available regarding EEG correlates of chronic neuropathic pain. The fact is that effective cortical neuromodulation strategies to treat neuropathic pain target the precentral cortical region, i.e. a cortical area corresponding to the motor cortex. It is not known how these strategies might modulate brain rhythms in the central cortical region, but it can be speculated that sensorimotor rhythms (SMRs) are modified. Another potent way of modulating cortical rhythms is to use EEG-based neurofeedback (NFB). Rare studies previously aimed at relieving neuropathic pain using EEG-NFB training.

Methods/design: The objective of this single-centre, single-blinded, randomized controlled pilot study is to assess the value of an EEG-NFB procedure to relieve chronic neuropathic pain in patients with painful peripheral neuropathy. A series of 32 patients will be randomly assigned to one of the two following EEG-NFB protocols, aimed at increasing either the low-β(SMR)/high-β ratio (n=16) or the α(μ)/θ ratio (n=16) at central (rolandic) cortical level. Various clinical outcome measures will be collected before and one week after 12 EEG-NFB sessions performed over 4weeks. Resting-state EEG will also be recorded immediately before and after each NFB session. The primary endpoint will be the change in the impact of pain on patient’s daily functioning, as assessed on the Interference Scale of the short form of the Brief Pain Inventory.

Discussion: The value of EEG-NFB procedures to relieve neuropathic pain has been rarely studied. This pilot study will attempt to show the value of endogenous modulation of brain rhythms in the central (rolandic) region in the frequency band corresponding to the frequency of stimulation currently used by therapeutic motor cortex stimulation. In the case of significant clinical benefit produced by the low-β(SMR)/high-β ratio increasing strategy, this work could pave the way for using EEG-NFB training within the armamentarium of neuropathic pain therapy.

Keywords: EEG; Mu rhythm; Neurofeedback; Pain; Power spectrum; Sensorimotor rhythms; Treatment.


Bismuth J, Vialatte F, Lefaucheur JP. Relieving peripheral neuropathic pain by increasing the power-ratio of low-β over high-β activities in the central cortical region with EEG-based neurofeedback: Study protocol for a controlled pilot trial (SMRPain study). Neurophysiol Clin. 2020 Feb;50(1):5-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2019.12.002. Epub 2020 Feb 8. PMID: 32046899.