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Papers: 13 Mar 2021 - 19 Mar 2021

2021 Mar 17

NPJ Parkinsons Dis



Towards optimising experimental quantification of persistent pain in Parkinson’s disease using psychophysical testing.


Bannister K, Smith RV, Wilkins P, Cummins TM
NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2021 Mar 17; 7(1):28.
PMID: 33731723.


People with Parkinson's disease (PD) may live for multiple decades after diagnosis. Ensuring that effective healthcare provision is received across the range of symptoms experienced is vital to the individual's wellbeing and quality of life. As well as the hallmark motor symptoms, PD patients may also suffer from non-motor symptoms including persistent pain. This type of pain (lasting more than 3 months) is inconsistently described and poorly understood, resulting in limited treatment options. Evidence-based pain remedies are coming to the fore but therapeutic strategies that offer an improved analgesic profile remain an unmet clinical need. Since the ability to establish a link between the neurodegenerative changes that underlie PD and those that underlie maladaptive pain processing leading to persistent pain could illuminate mechanisms or risk factors of disease initiation, progression and maintenance, we evaluated the latest research literature seeking to identify causal factors underlying persistent pain in PD through experimental quantification. The majority of previous studies aimed to identify neurobiological alterations that could provide a biomarker for pain/pain phenotype, in PD cohorts. However heterogeneity of patient cohorts, result outcomes and methodology between human psychophysics studies overwhelmingly leads to inconclusive and equivocal evidence. Here we discuss refinement of pain-PD paradigms in order that future studies may enhance confidence in the validity of observed effect sizes while also aiding comparability through standardisation. Encouragingly, as the field moves towards cross-study comparison of data in order to more reliably reveal mechanisms underlying dysfunctional pain processing, the potential for better-targeted treatment and management is high.