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J Pain. 2007 Jun;8(6):503-14. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Psychophysics, flare, and neurosecretory function in human pain models: capsaicin versus electrically evoked pain.

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Klinik und Poliklinik für Neurologie der Universität Mainz, Germany.


Intradermal capsaicin injection (CAP) and electrical current stimulation (ES) are analyzed in respect to patterns and test-retest reliability of pain as well as sensory and neurosecretory changes. In 10 healthy subjects, 2x CAP (50 microg) and 2x ES (5 to 30 mA) were applied to the volar forearm. The time period between 2 identical stimulations was about 4 months. Pain ratings, areas of mechanical hyperalgesia, and allodynia were assessed. The intensity of sensory changes was quantified by using quantitative sensory testing. Neurogenic flare was assessed by using laser Doppler imaging. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) release was quantified by dermal microdialysis in combination with an enzyme immunoassay. Time course and peak pain ratings were different between CAP and ES. Test-retest correlation was high (r > or = 0.73). Both models induced primary heat hyperalgesia and primary plus secondary pin-prick hyperalgesia. Allodynia occurred in about half of the subjects. Maximum flare sizes did not differ between CAP and ES, but flare intensities were higher for ES. Test-retest correlation was higher for flare sizes than for flare intensity. A significant CGRP release could only be measured after CAP. The different time courses of pain stimulation (CAP: rapidly decaying pain versus ES: pain plateau) led to different peripheral neurosecretory effects but induced similar central plasticity and hyperalgesia.


The present study gives a detailed overview of psychophysical and neurosecretory characteristics induced by noxious stimulation with capsaicin and electrical current. We describe differences, similarities, and reproducibility of these human pain models. These data might help to interpret past and future results of human pain studies using experimental pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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