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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 May 2023 - 2 Jun 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 May 26

NPJ Parkinsons Dis




Altered parabrachial nucleus nociceptive processing may underlie central pain in Parkinson’s disease.


Pautrat A, Al Tannir R, Pernet-Gallay K, Soutrenon R, Vendramini E, Sinniger V, Overton PG, David O, Coizet V


The presence of central neuropathic pain in Parkinson’s disease suggests that the brain circuits that allow us to process pain could be dysfunctional in the disorder. However, there is to date no clear pathophysiological mechanism to explain these symptoms. In this work, we present evidence that the dysfunction of the subthalamic nucleus and/or substantia nigra pars reticulata may impact nociceptive processing in the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), a low level primary nociceptive structure in the brainstem, and induce a cellular and molecular neuro-adaptation in this structure. In rat models of Parkinson’s disease with a partial dopaminergic lesion in the substantia nigra compacta, we found that the substantia nigra reticulata showed enhanced nociceptive responses. Such responses were less impacted in the subthalamic nucleus. A total dopaminergic lesion produced an increase in the nociceptive responses as well as an increase of the firing rate in both structures. In the PBN, inhibited nociceptive responses and increased expression of GABA receptors were found following a total dopaminergic lesion. However, neuro-adaptations at the level of dendritic spine density and post-synaptic density were found in both dopaminergic lesion groups. These results suggest that the molecular changes within the PBN following a larger dopaminergic lesion, such as increased GABA expression, is a key mechanism to produce nociceptive processing impairment, whilst other changes may protect function after smaller dopaminergic lesions. We also propose that these neuro-adaptations follow increased inhibitory tone from the substantia nigra pars reticulata and may represent the mechanism generating central neuropathic pain in Parkinson’s disease.