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Jens Randel Nyengaard

Spinal-, brainstem- and cerebrally mediated responses at- and below-level of a spinal cord contusion in rats: Evaluation of pain-like behavior

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  • The Danish Pain Research Center
  • Stereological Research Laboratory
  • The Department of Neurology
Pain is a frequent consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI) which may profoundly impair the patients' quality of life. Valid experimental models and methods are therefore desirable in the search for better treatments. Usually, experimental pain assays depend on stimulus-evoked withdrawal responses; however, this spinal-mediated reflex response may be particularly problematic when evaluating below-level SCI pain due to the development of hyperactive reflex circuitries. In this study, we applied and compared assays measuring cold (acetone), static (von Frey filaments), and dynamic mechanical (soft brush) hypersensitivity at different levels of the neuroaxis at and below the level of injury in a rat model of SCI. We induced an experimental SCI (MASCIS 25mm weight-drop) and evaluated the development of spinal reflexes (withdrawal), spinal-brainstem-spinal reflexes (licking, guarding, struggling, vocalizing, jumping, and biting) and cerebral-dependent behavior (place escape/avoidance paradigm (PEAP)). We demonstrated increased brainstem reflexes and cerebrally mediated aversive reactions to stimuli applied at the level of SCI, suggesting development of at-level evoked pain behavior. Furthermore, stimulation below-level increased innate reflex responses without increasing brainstem reflexes or aversive behavior in the PEAP, suggesting development of the spasticity syndrome rather than pain-like behavior. While spinal reflex measures are acceptable for studying changes in the spinal reflex pathways and spinal cord, they are not suited as nociceptive behavioral measures. Measuring brainstem organized responses eliminates the bias associated with the spastic syndrome, but pain requires cortical involvement. Methods depending on cortical structures, as the PEAP, are therefore optimal endpoints in animal models of central pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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