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Pain. 2001 Apr;91(3):287-96.

Activation of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) in rats with an experimental peripheral mononeuropathy.

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  • 1INSERM U-161, 2 rue d'Al├ęsia, 75014 Paris, France.


Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC), which involve supraspinal structures and modulate the transmission of nociceptive signals, were investigated in rats with chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve. Nerve-injured rats with increased sensitivity to mechanical and thermal stimulation on the operated side were anesthetized and recordings were made from trigeminal convergent neurons. Inhibitions of C-fiber-evoked neuronal responses during and after the application of nociceptive conditioning stimuli to the hindpaw, were measured to evaluate DNIC. The conditioning stimuli consisted of graded natural (pressure and heat) and electrical stimuli and were applied alternately to non-operated and operated hindpaws. Compared with the non-operated paw, inhibitions elicited by pressure on the operated hindpaw were increased significantly at all stimulus intensities. Albeit to a lesser extent, inhibitions elicited by thermal stimulation of the operated paw were also increased in the nerve-injured animals. Such exacerbation of DNIC-induced inhibitions produced by mechanical and thermal stimulation of the operated paw can be explained by an increase in the afferent input to the spinal cord. In contrast to the results obtained with natural stimulations, inhibitions evoked from the operated and non-operated paws were similar when graded electrical stimulation was used as the conditioning stimulus. This was true regardless of the intensity and frequency of stimulation and regardless of whether the stimuli were applied transcutaneously or directly to the sciatic nerve. The clear-cut difference between the results obtained with natural and electrical conditioning stimuli suggests that the nociceptive neurons involved in the triggering of DNIC may not be sensitized at the central level. Peripheral mechanisms such as the sensitization of nerve injured fibers and/or sprouting of nerve terminals may thus be the main causes of DNIC increase in this model of neuropathic pain.

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