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Papers Of The Week
2023 Jun 06 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Editor's Pick

Principles of nociceptive coding in the anterior cingulate cortex.

Authors: Acuña MA, Kasanetz F, De Luna P, Falkowska M, Nevian T
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The perception of pain is a multidimensional sensory and emotional/affective experience arising from distributed brain activity. However, the involved brain regions are not specific for pain. Thus, how the cortex distinguishes nociception from other aversive and salient sensory stimuli remains elusive. Additionally, the resulting consequences of chronic neuropathic pain on sensory processing have not been characterized. Using in vivo miniscope calcium imaging with cellular resolution in freely moving mice, we elucidated the principles of nociceptive and sensory coding in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region essential for pain processing. We found that population activity, not single-cell responses, allowed discriminating noxious from other sensory stimuli, ruling out the existence of nociception-specific neurons. Additionally, single-cell stimulus selectivity was highly dynamic over time, but stimulus representation at the population level remained stable. Peripheral nerve injury-induced chronic neuropathic pain led to dysfunctional encoding of sensory events by exacerbation of responses to innocuous stimuli and impairment of pattern separation and stimulus classification, which were restored by analgesic treatment. These findings provide a novel interpretation for altered cortical sensory processing in chronic neuropathic pain and give insights into the effects of systemic analgesic treatment in the cortex.

2023 May 30 - Brain
Editor's Pick

Gate control of sensory neurotransmission in peripheral ganglia by proprioceptive sensory neurons.

Authors: Fuller AM, Luiz A, Tian N, Arcangeletti M, Iseppon F, Sexton JE, Millet Q, Caxaria S, Ketabi N, Celik P, Wood JN, Sikandar S
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Melzak and Wall’s gate control theory proposed that innocuous input into the dorsal horn of the spinal cord represses pain-inducing nociceptive input. Here we show that input from proprioceptive parvalbumin-expressing sensory neurons tonically represses nociceptor activation within dorsal root ganglia. Deletion of parvalbumin-positive sensory neurons leads to enhanced nociceptor activity measured with GCaMP3, increased input into wide dynamic range neurons of the spinal cord and increased acute and spontaneous pain behaviour, as well as potentiated innocuous sensation. Parvalbumin-positive sensory neurons express the enzymes and transporters necessary to produce vesicular GABA that is known to be released from depolarized somata. These observations support the view that gate control mechanisms occur peripherally within dorsal root ganglia.

2023 May 16 - Neuron
Editor's Pick

Representation and control of pain and itch by distinct prefrontal neural ensembles.

Authors: Pan Q, Guo SS, Chen M, Su XY, Gao ZL, Wang Q, Xu TL, Liu MG, Hu J
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Pain and itch are two closely related but essentially distinct sensations that elicit different behavioral responses. However, it remains mysterious how pain and itch information is encoded in the brain to produce differential perceptions. Here, we report that nociceptive and pruriceptive signals are separately represented and processed by distinct neural ensembles in the prelimbic (PL) subdivision of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in mice. Pain- and itch-responsive cortical neural ensembles were found to significantly differ in electrophysiological properties, input-output connectivity profiles, and activity patterns to nociceptive or pruriceptive stimuli. Moreover, these two groups of cortical neural ensembles oppositely modulate pain- or itch-related sensory and emotional behaviors through their preferential projections to specific downstream regions such as the mediodorsal thalamus (MD) and basolateral amygdala (BLA). These findings uncover separate representations of pain and itch by distinct prefrontal neural ensembles and provide a new framework for understanding somatosensory information processing in the brain.

2023 May 24 - Nat Commun
Editor's Pick

Primary somatosensory cortex bidirectionally modulates sensory gain and nociceptive behavior in a layer-specific manner.

Authors: Ziegler K, Folkard R, Gonzalez AJ, Burghardt J, Antharvedi-Goda S, Martin-Cortecero J, Isaías-Camacho E, Kaushalya S, Tan LL, Kuner T, Acuna C, Kuner R, Mease RA, Groh A
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The primary somatosensory cortex (S1) is a hub for body sensation of both innocuous and noxious signals, yet its role in somatosensation versus pain is debated. Despite known contributions of S1 to sensory gain modulation, its causal involvement in subjective sensory experiences remains elusive. Here, in mouse S1, we reveal the involvement of cortical output neurons in layers 5 (L5) and 6 (L6) in the perception of innocuous and noxious somatosensory signals. We find that L6 activation can drive aversive hypersensitivity and spontaneous nocifensive behavior. Linking behavior to neuronal mechanisms, we find that L6 enhances thalamic somatosensory responses, and in parallel, strongly suppresses L5 neurons. Directly suppressing L5 reproduced the pronociceptive phenotype induced by L6 activation, suggesting an anti-nociceptive function for L5 output. Indeed, L5 activation reduced sensory sensitivity and reversed inflammatory allodynia. Together, these findings reveal a layer-specific and bidirectional role for S1 in modulating subjective sensory experiences.

2023 May 22 - Nat Neurosci
Editor's Pick

First-in-human prediction of chronic pain state using intracranial neural biomarkers.

Authors: Shirvalkar P, Prosky J, Chin G, Ahmadipour P, Sani OG, Desai M, Schmitgen A, Dawes H, Shanechi MM, Starr PA, Chang EF
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Chronic pain syndromes are often refractory to treatment and cause substantial suffering and disability. Pain severity is often measured through subjective report, while objective biomarkers that may guide diagnosis and treatment are lacking. Also, which brain activity underlies chronic pain on clinically relevant timescales, or how this relates to acute pain, remains unclear. Here four individuals with refractory neuropathic pain were implanted with chronic intracranial electrodes in the anterior cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Participants reported pain metrics coincident with ambulatory, direct neural recordings obtained multiple times daily over months. We successfully predicted intraindividual chronic pain severity scores from neural activity with high sensitivity using machine learning methods. Chronic pain decoding relied on sustained power changes from the OFC, which tended to differ from transient patterns of activity associated with acute, evoked pain states during a task. Thus, intracranial OFC signals can be used to predict spontaneous, chronic pain state in patients.

2023 May 19 - Sci Adv
Editor's Pick

Nociceptor activity induces nonionotropic NMDA receptor signaling to enable spinal reconsolidation and reverse pathological pain.

Authors: Zhang H, Rodriguez-Hernandez LD, D'Souza AJ, He D, Zain M, Fung SW, Bennett LA, Bonin RP
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Chronic, pathological pain is a highly debilitating condition that can arise and be maintained through central sensitization. Central sensitization shares mechanistic and phenotypic parallels with memory formation. In a sensory model of memory reconsolidation, plastic changes underlying pain hypersensitivity can be dynamically regulated and reversed following the reactivation of sensitized sensory pathways. However, the mechanisms by which synaptic reactivation induces destabilization of the spinal “pain engram” are unclear. We identified nonionotropic -methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NI-NMDAR) signaling as necessary and sufficient for the reactive destabilization of dorsal horn long-term potentiation and the reversal of mechanical sensitization associated with central sensitization. NI-NMDAR signaling engaged directly or through the reactivation of sensitized sensory networks was associated with the degradation of excitatory postsynaptic proteins. Our findings identify NI-NMDAR signaling as a putative synaptic mechanism by which engrams are destabilized in reconsolidation and as a potential means of treating underlying causes of chronic pain.

2023 May 18 - ACS Appl Mater Interfaces
Editor's Pick

Reconfigurable Low-Power TiO Memristor for Integration of Artificial Synapse and Nociceptor.

Authors: Sahu MC, Jena AK, Mallik SK, Roy S, Sahoo S, Ajimsha RS, Misra P, Sahoo S
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Bio-mimetic advanced electronic systems are emerging rapidly, engrossing their applications in neuromorphic computing, humanoid robotics, tactile sensors, and so forth. The biological synaptic and nociceptive functions are governed by intricate neurotransmitter dynamics that involve both short-term and long-term plasticity. To emulate the neuronal dynamics in an electronic device, an Ag/TiO/Pt/SiO/Si memristor is fabricated, exhibiting compliance current controlled reversible transition of volatile switching (VS) and non-volatile switching (NVS). The origin of the VS and NVS depends on the diameter of the conducting filament, which is explained using a field-induced nucleation theory and validated by temporal current response measurements. The switching delay of the device is used to determine the characteristic nociceptive behaviors such as threshold, relaxation, inadaptation, allodynia, and hyperalgesia. The short-term and long-term retention loss attributed to the VS and NVS, respectively, is used to emulate short-term memory and long-term memory of the biological brain in a single device. More importantly, synergistically modulating the VS-NVS transition, the complex spike rate-dependent (SRDP) and spike time-dependent plasticity (STDP) with a weight change of up to 600% is demonstrated in the same device, which is the highest reported so far for TiO memristors. Furthermore, the device exhibits very low power consumption, ∼3.76 pJ/spike, and can imitate synaptic and nociceptive functions. The consolidation of complex nociceptive and synaptic behavior in a single memristor facilitates low-power integration of scalable intelligent sensors and neuromorphic devices.

2023 May 15 - Brain Behav Immun
Editor's Pick

Cannabidiol alleviates neuroinflammation and attenuates neuropathic pain via targeting FKBP5.

Authors: Wang X, Lin C, Jin S, Wang Y, Peng Y, Wang X
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Microglia is a heterogeneous population that mediates neuroinflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) and plays a crucial role in developing neuropathic pain. FKBP5 facilitates the assembly of the IκB kinase (IKK) complex for the activation of NF-κB, which arises as a novel target for treating neuropathic pain. In this study, cannabidiol (CBD), a main active component of Cannabis, was identified as an antagonist of FKBP5. In vitro protein intrinsic fluorescence titration showed that CBD directly bound to FKBP5. Cellular thermal shift assay (CETSA) indicated that CBD binding increased the FKBP5 stability, which implies that FKBP5 is the endogenous target of CBD. CBD was found to inhibit the assembly of the IKK complex and the activation of NF-κB, therefore blocking LPS-induced NF-κB downstream pro-inflammatory factors NO, IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α. Stern-Volmer analysis and protein thermal shift assay revealed that tyrosine 113 (Y113) of FKBP5 was critical for FKBP5 interacting with CBD, which is consistent with in silico molecular docking simulation. FKBP5 Y113 mutation (Y113A) alleviated the effect of CBD inhibiting LPS-induced pro-inflammatory factors overproduction. Furthermore, systemic administration of CBD inhibited chronic constriction injury (CCI)-induced microglia activation and FKBP5 overexpression in lumbar spinal cord dorsal horn. These data imply that FKBP5 is an endogenous target of CBD.

2023 Apr - J Med Virol
Editor's Pick

HSV-1 infection-induced herpetic neuralgia involves a CCL5/CCR5-mediated inflammation mechanism.

Authors: Wu S, Yang S, Li R, Ba X, Jiang C, Xiong D, Xiao L, Sun W
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Herpetic-related neuralgia (HN) caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection is one of the most typical and common neuropathic pain in the clinic. However, the potential mechanisms and therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of HN are still unclear. This study aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms and potential therapeutic targets of HN. We used an HSV-1 infection-induced HN mouse model and screened the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the DRG and spinal cord using an RNAseq technique. Moreover, bioinformatics methods were used to figure out the signaling pathways and expression regulation patterns of the DEGs enriched. In addition, quantitative real-time RT-PCR and western blot were carried out to further confirm the expression of DEGs. HSV-1 inoculation in mice resulted in mechanical allodynia, thermal hyperalgesia, and cold allodynia, following the infection of HSV-1 in both DRG and spinal cord. Besides, HSV-1 inoculation induced an up-regulation of ATF3, CGRP, and GAL in DRG and activation of astrocytes and microglia in the spinal cord. Moreover, 639 genes were upregulated, 249 genes were downregulated in DRG, whereas 534 genes were upregulated and 12 genes were downregulated in the spinal cord of mice 7 days after HSV-1 inoculation. GO and KEGG enrichment analysis suggested that immune responses and cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction are involved in DRG and spinal cord neurons in mice after HSV-1 infection. In addition, CCL5 and its receptor CCR5 were significantly upregulated in DRG and spinal cord upon HSV-1 infection in mice. And blockade of CCR5 exhibited a significant analgesic effect and suppressed the upregulation of inflammatory cytokines in DRG and spinal cord induced by HSV-1 infection in mice. HSV-1 infection-induced allodynia and hyperalgesia in mice through dysregulation of immune response and cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction mechanism. Blockade of CCR5 alleviated allodynia and hyperalgesia probably through the suppression of inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, CCR5 could be a therapeutic target for the alleviation of HSV-1 infection-induced HN.

2023 May 13 - Cell Rep
Editor's Pick

Pain-induced adaptations in the claustro-cingulate pathway.

Authors: Ntamati NR, Acuña MA, Nevian T
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Persistent pain is a prevalent medical concern correlating with a hyperexcitable anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Its activity is modulated by inputs from several brain regions, but the maladjustments that these afferent circuits undergo during the transition from acute to chronic pain still require clarification. We focus on ACC-projecting claustrum (CLA) neurons and their responses to sensory and aversive stimuli in a mouse model of inflammatory pain. Using chemogenetics, in vivo calcium imaging, and ex vivo electrophysiological approaches, we reveal that suppression of CLA activity acutely attenuates allodynia and that the claustrum preferentially transmits aversive information to the ACC. With prolonged pain, a claustro-cingulate functional impairment develops, which is mediated by a weakened excitatory drive onto ACC pyramidal neurons, resulting in a diminished claustral influence on the ACC. These findings support an instrumental role of the claustrum in the processing of nociceptive information and its susceptibility to persistent pain states.

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