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The efficacy of sensory neural entrainment on acute and chronic pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hamde Nazar, Dr Ilona Obara, Dr Quoc Vuong



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background. Changes to the power of neural oscillations in cortical and sub-cortical structures can change pain perception. Rhythmic sensory stimulation is a non-invasive method that can increase power in specific frequencies of neural oscillations. If the stimulation frequency targets those frequencies related to pain perception, such as alpha or theta frequencies, there can be a reduction in perceived pain intensity. Thus, sensory neural entrainment may provide an alternative to pharmacological intervention for acute and chronic pain. This review aimed to identify and critically appraise the evidence on the effectiveness of sensory entrainment methods for pain perception.Methods. We undertook a systematic search across Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, Web of Science and Scopus in November 2020 to identify studies investigating the efficacy of sensory entrainment on adults. We assessed studies for their quality using the PRISMA checklist. A random-effects model was used in a meta-analysis to measure the effect of entrainment on pain perception.Results. Our systematic review yielded nine studies fitting the search criteria. Studies investigated the effect of visual and auditory entrainment on pain intensity rating, electrophysiological markers of pain and amount of analgesia needed during surgery. The meta-analysis suggests that alpha (8-13 Hz) sensory entrainment is effective for acute pain perception, whereas theta (4-7 Hz) entrainment is effective for chronic pain.Conclusions. Although there is heterogeneity in the current evidence, our review highlights the potential use of sensory entrainment to affect acute and chronic pain. Further research is required regarding the timing, duration and frequency of the stimulation to determine the best application for maximum efficacy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Maddison R, Nazar H, Obara I, Vuong QC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Pain

Year: 2023

Volume: 17

Issue: 2

Pages: 126-141

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 10/11/2022

Acceptance date: 01/11/2022

Date deposited: 02/11/2022

ISSN (print): 2049-4637

ISSN (electronic): 2049-4645

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/20494637221139472

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/kq3y-fj08


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