Tonic changes in alpha power during immersion of the hand in cold water

Miroslav Backonja, Eric W. Howland, Jue Wang, Julianne Smith, Martin Salinsky, Charles S. Cleeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Phasic event-related desynchronization (ERD) of alpha activity briefly follows many types of stimulation. In order to define EEG changes resulting from longer stimulation, EEG records were made before and during hand immersion into cool and painfully cold water (cold pressor). Five minutes of 13-lead EEG records were obtained from 14 subjects for each condition. EEG frequency analysis was performed on artifact-free epochs from 60 to 240 sec following immersion. Following an initial phasic decrease in alpha power during cold water immersion, there was an augmentation of alpha power (8-12 Hz) in bilateral frontal and posterior electrodes. This augmentation was largely the result of an increase in the low alpha band (8-18 Hz). Alpha power at both central electrodes C3 and C4 changed little during cold water immersion. Cool water immersion produced less alpha power augmentation than cold water immersion. These observed changes were primarily in the high alpha band (10-12 Hz) and were larger in electrodes ipsilateral rather than contralateral to the stimulation. There was also an increase of beta bilaterally in frontal and posterior regions with cold water immersion. Our data demonstrate sustained topographic EEG responses during tonic stimulation from hand immersion in painfully cold water. These changes differ from those produced by stimulation with cool water immersion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-203
Number of pages12
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1991


  • Alpha augmentation
  • Alpha power
  • Cold pressor
  • EEG
  • Event-related desynchronization
  • Pain
  • Tonic sensory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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