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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 May 2023 - 12 May 2023

Basic Science, Methodology, Resource

Ex Vivo Studies, In Silico Studies, In Vitro Studies, Molecular/Cellular


2023 Apr 21

J Vis Exp



Open-Source Real-Time Closed-Loop Electrical Threshold Tracking for Translational Pain Research.


Nickerson AP, Newton GWT, O'Sullivan JH, Martinez-Perez M, Sales AC, Williams G, Pickering AE, Dunham JP


Nociceptors are a class of primary afferent neurons that signal potentially harmful noxious stimuli. An increase in nociceptor excitability occurs in acute and chronic pain conditions. This produces abnormal ongoing activity or reduced activation thresholds to noxious stimuli. Identifying the cause of this increased excitability is required for the development and validation of mechanism-based treatments. Single-neuron electrical threshold tracking can quantify nociceptor excitability. Therefore, we have developed an application to allow such measurements and demonstrate its use in humans and rodents. APTrack provides real-time data visualization and action potential identification using a temporal raster plot. Algorithms detect action potentials by threshold crossing and monitor their latency after electrical stimulation. The plugin then modulates the electrical stimulation amplitude using an up-down method to estimate the electrical threshold of the nociceptors. The software was built upon the Open Ephys system (V0.54) and coded in C++ using the JUCE framework. It runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. The open-source code is available (https://github.com/Microneurography/APTrack). The electrophysiological recordings were taken from nociceptors in both a mouse skin-nerve preparation using the teased fiber method in the saphenous nerve and in healthy human volunteers using microneurography in the superficial peroneal nerve. Nociceptors were classified by their response to thermal and mechanical stimuli, as well as by monitoring the activity-dependent slowing of the conduction velocity. The software facilitated the experiment by simplifying the action potential identification through the temporal raster plot. We demonstrate real-time closed-loop electrical threshold tracking of single-neuron action potentials during in vivo human microneurography, for the first time, and during ex vivo mouse electrophysiological recordings of C-fibers and Aδ-fibers. We establish proof of principle by showing that the electrical threshold of a human heat-sensitive C-fiber nociceptor is reduced by heating the receptive field. This plugin enables the electrical threshold tracking of single-neuron action potentials and allows the quantification of changes in nociceptor excitability.