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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 Apr 2020 - 17 Apr 2020

Human Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 Apr 13


Pain-modulating effects of oxytocin in patients with chronic low back pain.


Boll S, Ueltzhoeffer K, Roth C, Bertsch K, Desch S, Nees F, Grinevich V, Herpertz SC
Neuropharmacology. 2020 Apr 13:108105.
PMID: 32298704.


The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has been shown to play a modulatory role in nociception. However, analgesic effects of OT in chronic pain conditions remain elusive and the neural underpinnings have not yet been investigated in humans. Here, we conducted an exploratory, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study to examine effects of intranasal OT in male patients suffering from chronic low back pain (CBP) versus healthy controls (HC). N = 22 participants with CBP and 22 HCs were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they continuously rated either spontaneously occurring back pain or acute thermal pain stimuli applied to the lower back. During heat pain processing we found that OT versus PL attenuated pain intensity ratings and increased BOLD responses in the caudate nucleus of the striatum in CBP versus HCs. Spontaneously experienced pain in contrast to heat pain was associated with activation changes in the medial frontal cortex (MFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as reported in previous studies. However, we did not observe OT effects on spontaneously experienced pain in CBP patients. Overall, our preliminary data may suggest that the striatum is a key structure underlying the pain-modulating effects of OT in patients with chronic pain and adds to the growing evidence linking the neuropeptide to pain modulation in humans. Further studies on neuronal OT effects in larger samples of chronic back pain patients are needed to understand probable mechanisms of OT effects in chronic pain.