Central Sensitization of Mechanical Nociceptive Pathways Is Associated with a Long-Lasting Increase of Pinprick-Evoked Brain Potentials.
ABSTRACT: Intense or sustained nociceptor activation, occurring, for example, after skin injury, can induce "central sensitization," i.e., an increased responsiveness of nociceptive neurons in the central nervous system. A hallmark of central sensitization is increased mechanical pinprick sensitivity in the area surrounding the injured skin. The aim of the present study was to identify changes in brain activity related to this increased pinprick sensitivity. In 20 healthy volunteers, increased pinprick sensitivity was induced using high frequency electrical stimulation of the forearm skin (HFS). Mechanical pinprick stimulation (64 and 90 mN) was used to elicit event-related brain potentials (ERPs). The recordings were performed before, 20 min after and 45 min after applying HFS. The contralateral non-sensitized arm served as control. Pinprick stimulation of 64 mN, but not 90 mN, applied in the area of increased pinprick sensitivity elicited a significant increase of a late-latency positive wave, between 300 and 1100 ms after stimulus onset and was maximal at midline posterior electrodes. Most importantly, this increase in EEG activity followed the time course of the increase in pinprick perception, both being present 20 and 45 min after applying HFS. Our results show that the central sensitization of mechanical nociceptive pathways, manifested behaviorally as increased pinprick sensitivity, is associated with a long-lasting increase in pinprick-evoked brain potentials provided that a 64 mN stimulation intensity is used.
Project description:High frequency electrical stimulation (HFS) of the skin induces increased pinprick sensitivity in the surrounding unconditioned skin. The aim of the present study was to investigate the contribution of A-fiber nociceptors to this increased pinprick sensitivity. For this we assessed if the perception and brain responses elicited by low-intensity intra-epidermal electrical stimulation (IES), a method preferentially activating A?-fiber nociceptors, are increased in the area of HFS-induced increased pinprick sensitivity. HFS was delivered to one of the two forearms of seventeen healthy volunteers. Mechanical pinprick stimulation and IES were delivered at both arms before HFS (T0), 20 minutes after HFS (T1) and 45 minutes after HFS (T2). In all participants, HFS induced an increase in pinprick perception at the HFS-treated arm, adjacent to the site of HFS. This increase was significant at both T1 and T2. HFS did not affect the percept elicited by IES, but did enhance the magnitude of the N2 wave of IES-evoked brain potentials, both at T1 and at T2. Our results show that HFS induces a long-lasting enhancement of the N2 wave elicited by IES in the area of secondary hyperalgesia, indicating that HFS enhances the responsiveness of the central nervous system to nociceptive A-fiber input. However, we found no evidence that HFS affects the perception elicited by IES, which may suggest that the population of nociceptors that mediate the perception elicited by IES do not contribute to HFS-induced increased pinprick sensitivity.
Project description:High frequency electrical conditioning stimulation (HFS) is an experimental method to induce increased mechanical pinprick sensitivity in the unconditioned surrounding skin (secondary hyperalgesia). Secondary hyperalgesia is thought to be the result of central sensitization, i.e. increased responsiveness of nociceptive neurons in the central nervous system. Vibrotactile and visual stimuli presented in the area of secondary hyperalgesia also elicit enhanced brain responses, a finding that cannot be explained by central sensitization as it is currently defined. HFS may recruit attentional processes, which in turn affect the processing of all stimuli. In this study we have investigated whether HFS induces perceptual biases towards stimuli presented onto the sensitized arm by using Temporal Order Judgment (TOJ) tasks. In TOJ tasks, stimuli are presented in rapid succession on either arm, and participants have to indicate their perceived order. In case of a perceptual bias, the stimuli presented on the attended side are systematically reported as occurring first. Participants performed a tactile and a visual TOJ task before and after HFS. Analyses of participants' performance did not reveal any prioritization of the visual and tactile stimuli presented onto the sensitized arm. Our results provide therefore no evidence for a perceptual bias towards tactile and visual stimuli presented onto the sensitized arm.
Project description:Abnormal processing of somatosensory inputs in the central nervous system (central sensitization) is the mechanism accounting for the enhanced pain sensitivity in the skin surrounding tissue injury (secondary hyperalgesia). Secondary hyperalgesia shares clinical characteristics with neurogenic hyperalgesia in patients with neuropathic pain. Abnormal brain responses to somatosensory stimuli have been found in patients with hyperalgesia as well as in normal subjects during experimental central sensitization. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of gabapentin, a drug effective in neuropathic pain patients, on brain processing of nociceptive information in normal and central sensitization states. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in normal volunteers, we studied the gabapentin-induced modulation of brain activity in response to nociceptive mechanical stimulation of normal skin and capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia. The dose of gabapentin was 1,800 mg per os, in a single administration. We found that (i) gabapentin reduced the activations in the bilateral operculoinsular cortex, independently of the presence of central sensitization; (ii) gabapentin reduced the activation in the brainstem, only during central sensitization; (iii) gabapentin suppressed stimulus-induced deactivations, only during central sensitization; this effect was more robust than the effect on brain activation. The observed drug-induced effects were not due to changes in the baseline fMRI signal. These findings indicate that gabapentin has a measurable antinociceptive effect and a stronger antihyperalgesic effect most evident in the brain areas undergoing deactivation, thus supporting the concept that gabapentin is more effective in modulating nociceptive transmission when central sensitization is present.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Psychological conditions affect pain responses in the human anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) according to brain imaging analysis. The rodent prefrontal cortex (PFC) including cingulate areas is also related to the affective dimension of pain. We previously reported PFC nociceptive responses inhibited by inputs from the amygdala, such as with dopamine (DA) D2 receptor (D2R) blockers, to show decreased effect on amygdala projections. In this study, we examined whether direct projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the PFC affect nociceptive responses in the PFC. RESULTS: High frequency stimulation (HFS, 50 Hz, 30 s) delivered to the VTA produced long-lasting suppression (LLS) of nociceptive responses in the rat PFC including cingulate and prelimbic areas. Nociceptive responses evoked by mechanical pressure stimulation (2 s duration at 500 g constant force) applied to the tails of urethane-anesthetized rats were recorded using extracellular unit recording methods in the PFC. HFS delivered to the VTA, which has been reported to increase DA concentrations in the PFC, significantly suppressed nociceptive responses. The LLS of nociceptive responses persisted for about 30 minutes and recovered to the control level within 60 min after HFS. We also demonstrated local microinjection of a selective D2 agonist of DA receptors to induce LLS of mechanical nociceptive responses, while a D2 but not a D1 antagonist impaired the LLS evoked by HFS. In contrast, DA depletion by a 6-hydroxydopamine injection or a low concentration of DA induced by a ?-opiate receptor agonist injected into the VTA had minimal effect on nociceptive responses in the PFC. CONCLUSION: HFS delivered to VTA inhibited nociceptive responses for a long period in PFC. DA D2R activation mediated by local D2 agonist injection also induced LLS of mechanical nociceptive responses. The mesocortical DA system may modify PFC nociceptive responses via D2 activity.
Project description:Central sensitization is a driving mechanism in many chronic pain patients, and manifests as hyperalgesia and allodynia beyond any apparent injury. Recent studies have demonstrated analgesic effects of motor cortex (M1) stimulation in several chronic pain disorders, yet its neural mechanisms remain uncertain. We evaluated whether anodal M1 transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) would mitigate central sensitization as measured by indices of secondary hyperalgesia. We used a capsaicin-heat pain model to elicit secondary mechanical hyperalgesia in 27 healthy subjects. In an assessor and subject-blind randomized, sham-controlled, crossover trial, anodal M1 tDCS decreased the intensity of pinprick hyperalgesia more than cathodal or sham tDCS. To elucidate the mechanism driving analgesia, subjects underwent fMRI of painful mechanical stimuli prior to and following induction of the pain model, after receiving M1 tDCS. We hypothesized that anodal M1 tDCS would enhance engagement of a descending pain modulatory (DPM) network in response to mechanical stimuli. Anodal tDCS normalized the effects of central sensitization on neurophysiological responses to mechanical pain in the medial prefrontal cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, and periaqueductal gray, important regions in the DPM network. Taken together, these results provide support for the hypothesis that anodal M1-tDCS reduces central sensitization-induced hyperalgesia through the DPM network in humans.
Project description:Glial cells are being increasingly implicated in mechanisms underlying pathological pain, and recent studies suggest glial gap junctions involving astrocytes may contribute. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a gap junction blocker, carbenoxolone (CBX), on medullary dorsal horn (MDH) nociceptive neuronal properties and facial mechanical nociceptive behavior in a rat trigeminal neuropathic pain model involving partial transection of the infraorbital nerve (p-IONX). p-IONX produced facial mechanical hypersensitivity reflected in significantly reduced head withdrawal thresholds that lasted for more than 3weeks. p-IONX also produced central sensitization in MDH nociceptive neurons that was reflected in significantly increased receptive field size, reduction of mechanical activation threshold, and increases in noxious stimulation-evoked responses. Intrathecal CBX treatment significantly attenuated the p-IONX-induced mechanical hypersensitivity and the MDH central sensitization parameters, compared to intrathecal vehicle treatment. These results provide the first documentation that gap junctions may be critically involved in orofacial neuropathic pain mechanisms.
Project description:Despite the importance of neonatal skin stimulation, little is known about activation of the newborn human infant brain by sensory stimulation of the skin. We carried out functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the feasibility of measuring brain activation to a range of mechanical stimuli applied to the skin of neonatal infants.We studied 19 term infants with a mean age of 13 days. Brain activation was measured in response to brushing, von Frey hair (vFh) punctate stimulation and, in one case, nontissue damaging pinprick stimulation of the plantar surface of the foot. Initial whole brain analysis was followed by region of interest analysis of specific brain areas.Distinct patterns of functional brain activation were evoked by brush and vFh punctate stimulation, which were reduced, but still present, under chloral hydrate sedation. Brain activation increased with increasing stimulus intensity. The feasibility of using pinprick stimulation in fMRI studies was established in one unsedated healthy full-term infant.Distinct brain activity patterns can be measured in response to different modalities and intensities of skin sensory stimulation in term infants. This indicates the potential for fMRI studies in exploring tactile and nociceptive processing in the infant brain.
Project description:Tibia fracture in rodents induces substance P (SP)-dependent keratinocyte activation and inflammatory changes in the hindlimb, similar to those seen in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). In animal pain models spinal glial cell activation results in nociceptive sensitization. This study tested the hypothesis that limb fracture triggers afferent C-fiber SP release in the dorsal horn, resulting in chronic glial activation and central sensitization. At 4 weeks after tibia fracture and casting in rats, the cast was removed and hind paw allodynia, unweighting, warmth, and edema were measured, then the antinociceptive effects of microglia (minocycline) or astrocyte (L-2-aminoadipic acid (LAA)) inhibitors or an SP receptor antagonist (LY303870) were tested. Immunohistochemistry and PCR were used to evaluate microglial and astrocyte activation in the dorsal horn. Similar experiments were performed in intact rats after brief sciatic nerve electric stimulation at C-fiber intensity. Microglia and astrocytes were chronically activated at 4 weeks after fracture and contributed to the maintenance of hind paw allodynia and unweighting. Furthermore, LY303870 treatment initiated at 4 weeks after fracture partially reversed both spinal glial activation and nociceptive sensitization. Similarly, persistent spinal microglial activation and hind paw nociceptive sensitization were observed at 48 h after sciatic nerve C-fiber stimulation and this effect was inhibited by treatment with minocycline, LAA, or LY303870. These data support the hypothesis that C-fiber afferent SP signaling chronically supports spinal neuroglial activation after limb fracture and that glial activation contributes to the maintenance of central nociceptive sensitization in CRPS. Treatments inhibiting glial activation and spinal inflammation may be therapeutic for CRPS.
Project description:Prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) is expressed in nociceptive dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, functions as an ectonucleotidase, and generates adenosine extracellularly. Here, we found that PAP inhibits noxious thermal sensitivity and sensitization that is associated with chronic pain through sustained activation of the adenosine A(1) receptor (A(1)R) and phospholipase C-mediated depletion of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP(2)). In mice, intrathecal injection of PAP reduced PIP(2) levels in DRGs, inhibited thermosensation through TRPV1, and enduringly reduced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia caused by inflammation, nerve injury, and pronociceptive receptor activation. This included inhibitory effects on lysophosphatidic acid, purinergic (ATP), bradykinin, and protease-activated (thrombin) receptors. Conversely, PIP(2) levels were significantly elevated in DRGs from Pap(-/-) mice, and this correlated with enhanced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in Pap(-/-) mice. To directly test the importance of PIP(2) in nociception, we intrathecally injected PIP(2) into mice. This transiently (2 h) elevated PIP(2) levels in lumbar DRGs and transiently (2 h) enhanced thermosensation. Additionally, thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia were enduringly enhanced when PIP(2) levels were elevated coincident with injury/pronociceptive receptor stimulation. Nociceptive sensitization was not affected if PIP(2) levels were elevated in the absence of ongoing pronociceptive receptor stimulation. Together, our data suggest that PIP(2) levels in DRGs directly influence thermosensation and the magnitude of nociceptive sensitization. Moreover, our data suggest there is an underlying "phosphoinositide tone" that can be manipulated by an adenosine-generating ectonucleotidase. This tone regulates how effectively acute nociceptive insults promote the transition to chronic pain.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Pain is the hallmark of sickle cell anemia (SCA), presenting as recurrent acute events or chronic pain. Central sensitization, or enhanced excitability of the central nervous system, alters pain processing and contributes to the maintenance of chronic pain. Individuals with SCA demonstrate enhanced sensitivity to painful stimuli however central mechanisms of pain have not been fully explored. We hypothesized that adults with SCA would show evidence of central sensitization as observed in other diseases of chronic pain. METHODS:We conducted a prospective study of static and dynamic quantitative sensory tests in 30 adults with SCA and 30 matched controls. RESULTS:Static thermal testing using cold stimuli showed lower pain thresholds (p=0.04) and tolerance (p=0.04) in sickle cell subjects, but not for heat. However, SCA subjects reported higher pain ratings with random heat pulses (p<0.0001) and change in scores with temporal summation at the heat pain threshold (p=0.002). Similarly, with the use of pressure pain stimuli, sickle cell subjects reported higher pain ratings (p=0.04), but not higher pressure pain tolerance/thresholds or allodynia to light tactile stimuli. Temporal summation pain score changes using 2 pinprick probes (256 and 512mN) were significantly greater (p=0.004 and p=0.008) with sickle cell, and delayed recovery was associated with lower fetal hemoglobin (p=0.002 and 0.003). CONCLUSIONS:Exaggerated temporal summation responses provide evidence of central sensitization in SCA. IMPLICATIONS:The association with fetal hemoglobin suggests this known SCA modifier may have a therapeutic role in modulating central sensitization.