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Pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) is a valuable tool for the investigation of pharmacological effects of a drug on pain processing. We hypothesized that the ibuprofen-arginine combination, in line with its characteristic analgesic properties, may influence the phMRI response at the central level, as compared to placebo. Ten healthy subjects underwent a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, cross-over phFMRI study with somatosensory painful stimulation of the right median nerve. We measured the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal variations induced in conditions of pain after oral administration of either ibuprofen-arginine or placebo formulations. Independent component analysis (ICA) was used for the analysis of the fMRI data, without assuming a specific hemodynamic response function (HRF), which may be altered by drug administration. Median nerve electrical painful stimulation mainly activated the primary contralateral and the secondary somatosensory cortices, the insula, the supplementary motor area, and the middle frontal gyrus. Placebo and ibuprofen-arginine administration induced activation bilaterally in the premotor cortex, and an overall reduction in the other pain-related areas, which was more prominent in the left hemisphere. A task-related increase of BOLD signal between drug and placebo was observed bilaterally in the primary somatosensory area and the middle frontal gyrus without any changes in subjective pain scores. Overall, our findings show that ibuprofen-arginine, in line with the characteristic analgesic properties of ibuprofen, influences the BOLD response in specific pain-related brain areas with respect to placebo, with a vasoactive effect possibly due to arginine.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol

Publication Date





927 - 935


Adolescent, Adult, Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal, Arginine, Brain, Brain Mapping, Chemistry, Pharmaceutical, Cross-Over Studies, Double-Blind Method, Drug Combinations, Humans, Ibuprofen, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Oxygen, Pain, Pain Measurement, Principal Component Analysis, Young Adult