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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jul 2023 - 21 Jul 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

Neuropathic Pain

2023 Jul 14



Descending mechanism by which medial prefrontal cortex endocannabinoid signaling controls the development of neuropathic pain and neuronal activity of dorsal root ganglion.


Tran H, Feng Y, Chao D, Liu QS, Hogan QH, Pan B


Although regulation of nociceptive processes in the dorsal horn by deep brain structures has long been established, the role of cortical networks in pain regulation is minimally explored. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is a key brain area in pain processing that receives ascending nociceptive input and exerts top-down control of pain sensation. We have shown critical changes in mPFC synaptic function during neuropathic pain, controlled by endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling. This study tests whether mPFC eCB signaling modulates neuropathic pain through descending control. Intra-mPFC injection of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) agonist WIN-55,212-2 (WIN) in the chronic phase transiently alleviates the pain-like behaviors in spared nerve injury (SNI) rats. By contrast, intra-mPFC injection of CB1R antagonist AM4113 in the early phase of neuropathic pain reduces the development of pain-like behaviors in the chronic phase. Spared nerve injury reduced the mechanical threshold to induce action potential firing of dorsal horn wide-dynamic-range neurons, but this was reversed in rats by WIN in the chronic phase of SNI and by mPFC injection of AM4113 in the early phase of SNI. Elevated dorsal root ganglion neuronal activity after injury was also diminished in rats by mPFC injection of AM4113, potentially by reducing antidromic activity and subsequent neuronal inflammation. These findings suggest that depending on the phase of the pain condition, both blocking and activating CB1 receptors in the mPFC can regulate descending control of pain and affect both dorsal horn neurons and peripheral sensory neurons, contributing to changes in pain sensitivity.