Reduction of empathy for pain by placebo analgesia suggests functional equivalence of empathy and first-hand emotion experience.
The topographic pattern and latency of the P2 component of the somatosensory evoked potential elicited by painful electrical stimulation of the sural nerve was compared to the P3a event-related potential evoked by an infrequent task-irrelevant (deviant) innocuous sural nerve stimulus presented as part of the deviant-odd ball paradigm. Conditions typically used to record the sural nerve pain-evoked P2 (multiple stimulus levels, short fixed inter-stimulus intervals, and the subjects engaged in a pain rating task) did not elicit a P3a. The P3a was elicited when the painful stimuli were presented at a long and variable inter-stimulus interval. When present, the P3a occurred immediately following P2. These findings demonstrate that P2 is not a pain-evoked P3a. Rather, the response properties and latency of P2 present the possibility that it indexes a stimulus evaluation process where the sensory input is compared to an environmental template maintained by working memory.