Role of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Translational Pain Research

Xiao Xiao1• Ming Ding1• Yu-Qiu Zhang2

1 Key Laboratory of Computational Neuroscience and Brain-Inspired Intelligence, Ministry of Education; Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-Inspired Intelligence, Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Center, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China

2 State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology and MOE Frontiers Center for Brain Science, Department of Translational Neuroscience, Jing’an District Centre Hospital of

Shanghai, Institutes of Brain Science; Institute of Integrative Medicine, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China


As the most common symptomatic reason to seek medical consultation, pain is a complex experience that has been classified into different categories and stages. In pain processing, noxious stimuli may activate the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). But the function of ACC in the different pain conditions is not well discussed. In this review, we elaborate the commonalities and differences from accumulated evidence by a variety of pain assays for physiological pain and pathological pain including inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain, and cancer pain in the ACC, and discuss the cellular receptors and signaling molecules from animal studies. We further summarize the ACC as a new central neuromodulation target for invasive and non-invasive stimulation techniques in clinical pain management. The comprehensive understanding of pain processing in the ACC may lead to bridging the gap in translational research between basic and clinical studies and to develop new therapies.


Anterior cingulate cortex ; Deep brain stimulation ; Transcranial magnetic stimulation ; Transcranial direct current stimulation ; Pathological pain ; Inflammatory pain ; Neuropathic pain ; Cancer pain


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