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Papers of the Week

Papers: 20 May 2023 - 26 May 2023


Genetics, Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 May 22



Critical Windows: Exploring the Association Between Perinatal Trauma, Epigenetics, and Chronic Pain.


Kodila ZN, Shultz SR, Yamakawa GR, Mychasiuk R


Chronic pain is highly prevalent and burdensome, affecting millions of people worldwide. Although it emerges at any point in life, it often manifests in adolescence. Given that adolescence is a unique developmental period, additional strains associated with persistent and often idiopathic pain lead to significant long-term consequences. While there is no singular cause for the chronification of pain, epigenetic modifications that lead to neural reorganization may underpin central sensitization and subsequent manifestation of pain hypersensitivity. Epigenetic processes are particularly active during the prenatal and early postnatal years. We demonstrate how exposure to various traumas, such as intimate partner violence while in utero or adverse childhood experiences, can significantly influence epigenetic regulation within the brain and in turn modify pain-related processes. We provide compelling evidence that the burden of chronic pain is likely initiated early in life, often being transmitted from mother to offspring. We also highlight two promising prophylactic strategies, oxytocin administration and probiotic use, that have the potential to attenuate the epigenetic consequences of early adversity. Overall, we advance understanding of the causal relationship between trauma and adolescent chronic pain by highlighting epigenetic mechanisms that underlie this transmission of risk, ultimately informing how to prevent this rising epidemic.