Thermal nociception using a modified Hargreaves method in primates and humans

Zhengwen Ma, Yao Li, Yi Ping Zhang, Lisa B.E. Shields, Qing Xie, Guofeng Yan, Wei Liu, Guoqiang Chen, Ying Zhang, Benedikt Brommer, Xiao Ming Xu, Yi Lu, Xuejin Chen, Christopher B. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Nociception is an important protective mechanism. The Hargreaves method, which involves measuring withdrawal latency following thermal stimulation to the paw, is commonly used to measure pain thresholds in rodents. We modified this technique to measure pain thresholds in monkeys and humans. The modified Hargreaves method was used to quantitate pain sensitivity in eight normal rhesus monkeys, 55 human volunteers, and 12 patients with spinal cord or cauda equina lesions. Thermal stimulation was delivered at 80% of maximum output, and the duration of the stimulation was set at a maximum of 10 seconds to avoid skin injury. The following withdrawal latencies were recorded: 2.7±0.12 seconds in volunteers and 3.4±0.35 seconds in neurologically intact monkeys (p>0.05). Patients with spinal cord or cauda equina lesions showed significantly increased latencies (p<0.001). The modified Hargreaves technique is a safe and reliable method that can provide a validated measure of physiological pain sensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-236
Number of pages8
JournalFunctional Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015



  • Hargreaves
  • Monkeys
  • Pain
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

Ma, Z., Li, Y., Zhang, Y. P., Shields, L. B. E., Xie, Q., Yan, G., Liu, W., Chen, G., Zhang, Y., Brommer, B., Xu, X. M., Lu, Y., Chen, X., & Shields, C. B. (2015). Thermal nociception using a modified Hargreaves method in primates and humans. Functional Neurology, 30(4), 229-236.