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Pain. 2002 Oct;99(3):589-98.

Pain activation of human supraspinal opioid pathways as demonstrated by [11C]-carfentanil and positron emission tomography (PET).

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Department of Radiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, JHOC 3225, 601 N Caroline Street, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


The role of the supraspinal endogenous opioid system in pain processing has been investigated in this study using positron emission tomography imaging of [11C]-carfentanil, a synthetic, highly specific mu opioid receptor (mu-OR) agonist. Eight healthy volunteers were studied during a baseline imaging session and during a session in which subjects experienced pain induced by applying capsaicin topically to the dorsal aspect of the left hand. A pain-related decrease in brain mu-OR binding was observed in the contralateral thalamus consistent with competitive binding between [11C]-carfentanil and acutely released endogenous opioid peptides. This decrease varied directly with ratings of pain intensity. These results suggest that the supraspinal mu-opioid system is activated by acute pain and thus may play a substantial role in pain processing and modulation in pain syndromes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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