Chronic pain found to cause maladaptive anxiety

April 29, 2022
Chronic pain found to cause maladaptive anxiety

Researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan have identified neuronal pathways associated with chronic pain and maladaptive emotional states in mice. A large fraction of people worldwide suffer from chronic pain, which is often comorbid with psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders, due to changes in neural circuits.

Chemogenetics research, however, may have positive implications for treatment of chronic pain-related psychiatric disorders in humans.

In studying how neuronal circuits were affected by chronic pain in mice, Hokkaido University researchers found unusual neuroplastic changes in the brain – these changes suppressed or inhibited the neuronal pathway projecting from a region called bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) i.e., lateral hypothalamus (LH)–projecting BNST neurons.

Chronic pain elevated the excitability of a specific subpopulation of BNST neurons, which expressed cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART). These BNST neurons induced anxiety-like behaviour in the mice.

An advanced technique used to manipulate neuronal activity called chemogenetics appears to restore the suppressed activity of this neuronal pathway, thereby reducing anxiety.

“These findings could not only lead to improved treatment of chronic pain, but also to new therapeutics for anxiety disorders,” commented Professor Masabumi Minami of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Hokkaido University.

Category: Education, Features

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