Stimulation of the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) has attenuated pain in humans and inflammatory nociception in animals. Here we studied S2 stimulation-induced antinociception and its underlying mechanisms in an experimental animal model of neuropathy induced by spinal nerve ligation (SNL). Effect of S2 stimulation on heat-evoked limb withdrawal latency was assessed in lightly anesthetized rats that were divided into three groups based on prior surgery and monofilament testing before induction of anesthesia: 1) sham-operated group and 2) hypersensitive and 3) nonhypersensitive (mechanically) SNL groups. In a group of hypersensitive SNL animals, a 5-HT1A receptor agonist was microinjected into the rostroventromedial medulla (RVM) to assess whether autoinhibition of serotonergic cell bodies blocks antinociception. Additionally, effect of S2 stimulation on pronociceptive ON-cells and antinociceptive OFF-cells in the RVM or nociceptive spinal wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons were assessed in anesthetized hypersensitive SNL animals. S2 stimulation induced antinociception in hypersensitive but not in nonhypersensitive SNL or sham-operated animals. Antinociception was prevented by a 5-HT1A receptor agonist in the RVM. Antinociception was associated with decreased duration of heat-evoked response in RVM ON-cells. In spinal WDR neurons, heat-evoked discharge was delayed by S2 stimulation, and this antinociceptive effect was prevented by blocking spinal 5-HT1A receptors. The results indicate that S2 stimulation suppresses nociception in SNL animals if SNL is associated with tactile allodynia-like hypersensitivity. In hypersensitive SNL animals, S2 stimulation induces antinociception mediated by medullospinal serotonergic pathways acting on the spinal 5-HT1A receptor, and partly through reduction of the RVM ON-cell discharge.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Stimulation of S2 cortex, but not that of an adjacent cortical area, induced descending heat antinociception in rats with the spinal nerve ligation-induced model of neuropathy. Antinociception was bilateral, and it involved suppression of pronociceptive medullary cells and activation of serotonergic pathways that act on the spinal 5-HT1A receptor. S2 stimulation failed to induce descending antinociceptive effect in sham-operated controls or in nerve-ligated animals that had not developed mechanical hypersensitivity.
- descending inhibition
- neuropathic hypersensitivity
- SII cortex
- 5-HT1A receptor
- rostroventromedial medulla
- spinal wide dynamic range neuron
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