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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 May 2020 - 22 May 2020

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 May 18

Nat Neurosci

Editor's Pick

General anesthetics activate a potent central pain-suppression circuit in the amygdala.


Hua T, Chen B, Lu D, Sakurai K, Zhao S, Han B-X, Kim J, Yin L, Chen Y, Lu J, Wang F
Nat Neurosci. 2020 May 18.
PMID: 32424286.


General anesthesia (GA) can produce analgesia (loss of pain) independent of inducing loss of consciousness, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We hypothesized that GA suppresses pain in part by activating supraspinal analgesic circuits. We discovered a distinct population of GABAergic neurons activated by GA in the mouse central amygdala (CeA neurons). In vivo calcium imaging revealed that different GA drugs activate a shared ensemble of CeA neurons. CeA neurons also possess basal activity that mostly reflects animals' internal state rather than external stimuli. Optogenetic activation of CeA potently suppressed both pain-elicited reflexive and self-recuperating behaviors across sensory modalities and abolished neuropathic pain-induced mechanical (hyper-)sensitivity. Conversely, inhibition of CeA activity exacerbated pain, produced strong aversion and canceled the analgesic effect of low-dose ketamine. CeA neurons have widespread inhibitory projections to many affective pain-processing centers. Our study points to CeA as a potential powerful therapeutic target for alleviating chronic pain.