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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jan 2022 - 4 Feb 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Jan 28

Mol Pain

Dorsal Column and Root Stimulation at Aβ-fiber Intensity Activate Superficial Dorsal Horn Glutamatergic and GABAergic Populations.


Neurostimulation therapies are frequently used in patients with chronic pain conditions. They emerged from Gate Control Theory (GCT), which posits that Aβ-fiber activation recruits superficial dorsal horn (SDH) inhibitory networks to "close the gate" on nociceptive transmission, resulting in pain relief. However, the efficacy of current therapies is limited, and the underlying circuits remain poorly understood. For example, it remains unknown whether ongoing stimulation of Aβ-fibers is sufficient to drive activity in SDH neurons. We used multiphoton microscopy in spinal cords extracted from mice expressing the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6s in glutamatergic and GABAergic populations; activity levels were inferred from deconvolved calcium signals using CaImAn software. Sustained Aβ-fiber stimulation at the dorsal columns or dorsal roots drove robust yet transient activation of both SDH populations. Following the initial increase, activity levels decreased below baseline in glutamatergic neurons and were depressed after stimulation ceased in both populations. Surprisingly, only about half of GABAergic neurons responded to Aβ-fiber stimulation. This subset showed elevated activity for the entire duration of stimulation, while non-responders decreased with time. Our findings suggest that Aβ-fiber stimulation initially recruits both excitatory and inhibitory populations but has divergent effects on their activity, providing a foundation for understanding the analgesic effects of neurostimulation devices.