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Papers of the Week

Papers: 2 May 2020 - 8 May 2020

2020 May 06

J Dent Res

Neural Pathways of Craniofacial Muscle Pain: Implications for Novel Treatments.


Chung MK, Wang S, Yang J, Alshanqiti I, Wei F, Ro JY
J Dent Res. 2020 May 06:22034520919384.
PMID: 32374638.


Craniofacial muscle pain is highly prevalent in temporomandibular disorders but is difficult to treat. Enhanced understanding of neurobiology unique to craniofacial muscle pain should lead to the development of novel mechanism-based treatments. Herein, we review recent studies to summarize neural pathways of craniofacial muscle pain. Nociceptive afferents in craniofacial muscles are predominantly peptidergic afferents enriched with TRPV1. Signals from peripheral glutamate receptors converge onto TRPV1, leading to mechanical hyperalgesia. Further studies are needed to clarify whether hyperalgesic priming in nonpeptidergic afferents or repeated acid injections also affect craniofacial muscle pain. Within trigeminal ganglia, afferents innervating craniofacial muscles interact with surrounding satellite glia, which enhances the sensitivity of the inflamed neurons as well as nearby uninjured afferents, resulting in hyperalgesia and ectopic pain originating from adjacent orofacial tissues. Craniofacial muscle afferents project to a wide area within the trigeminal nucleus complex, and central sensitization of medullary dorsal horn neurons is a critical factor in muscle hyperalgesia related to ectopic pain and emotional stress. Second-order neurons project rostrally to pathways associated with affective pain, such as parabrachial nucleus and medial thalamic nucleus, as well as sensory-discriminative pain, such as ventral posteromedial thalamic nuclei. Abnormal endogenous pain modulation can also contribute to chronic muscle pain. Descending serotonergic circuits from the rostral ventromedial medulla facilitate activation of second-order neurons in the trigeminal nucleus complex, which leads to the maintenance of mechanical hyperalgesia of inflamed masseter muscle. Patients with temporomandibular disorders exhibit altered brain networks in widespread cortical and subcortical regions. Recent development of methods for neural circuit manipulation allows silencing of specific hyperactive neural circuits. Chemogenetic silencing of TRPV1-expressing afferents or rostral ventromedial medulla neurons attenuates hyperalgesia during masseter inflammation. It is likely, therefore, that further delineation of neural circuits mediating craniofacial muscle hyperalgesia potentially enhances treatment of chronic muscle pain conditions.