I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 10 Dec 2022 - 16 Dec 2022

2022 Dec 06

Int J Mol Sci



Impaired Pain Processing at a Brainstem Level Is Involved in Maladaptive Neuroplasticity in Patients with Chronic Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.


Thoma P, Drämel N, Grothe M, Lotze M, Fleischmann R, Strauss S
Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 06; 23(23).
PMID: 36499694.


Neuroinflammatory mechanisms and maladaptive neuroplasticity underlie the progression of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which is prototypical of central neuropathic pain conditions. While cortical maladaptive alterations are well described, little is known about the contribution of the brainstem to the pathophysiology. This study investigates the role of pain-modulatory brainstem pathways in CRPS using the nociceptive blink reflex (nBR), which not only provides a direct read-out of brainstem excitability and habituation to painful stimuli but may also be suitable for use as a diagnostic biomarker for CRPS. Thirteen patients with CRPS and thirteen healthy controls (HCs) participated in this prospective case-control study investigating the polysynaptic trigemino-cervical (R2) nBR response. The R2 area and its habituation were assessed following repeated supraorbital electrical stimulation. Between-group comparisons included evaluations of diagnostic characteristics as a potential biomarker for the disease. Patients with CRPS showed a substantial decrease in habituation on the stimulated (Cohen's d: 1.3; = 0.012) and the non-stimulated side (Cohen's d: 1.1; = 0.04). This is the first study to reveal altered nBR habituation as a pathophysiological mechanism and potential diagnostic biomarker in CRPS. We confirmed previous findings of altered nBR excitability, but the diagnostic accuracy was inferior. Future studies should investigate the nBR as a marker of progression to central mechanisms in CRPS and as a biomarker to predict treatment response or prognosis.