Neuroscience

Lingering Pain

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Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1016
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6136.1016-d

Neuropathic pain results from injury or disease in the nervous system and is estimated to affect more than 2 million people in the United States. The pain can linger, but the mechanisms for such persistence are not well defined. Qiu et al. studied a mouse model in which injury to a peripheral nerve caused behavioral effects that lasted for weeks, in which mechanical stimuli that were normally not noxious would cause pain. They looked for effects of this treatment in a brain region called the insular cortex. This region is implicated in pain sensation, and direct stimulation of the insular cortex in humans causes pain sensation. The authors found that signaling responses to neurotransmitters were altered in animals that had experienced the nerve injury. Neurotransimitter receptors activated by NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) were phosphorylated on tryrosine residues and accumulated in synapses of the insular cortex. The injection of inhibitors of NMDA receptor signaling into the insular cortex decreased the hypersensitivity to pain in the treated mice. Such insights may help direct new therapeutic approaches to managing neuropathic pain.

Sci. Signal. 6, ra34 (2013).

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