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J Neurophysiol. 1991 Jul;66(1):228-46.

Neurogenic hyperalgesia: central neural correlates in responses of spinothalamic tract neurons.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.


1. The contribution of activity in spinothalamic tract (STT) neurons to the pain and neurogenic hyperalgesia produced by an intradermal injection of 100 micrograms of capsaicin was investigated. Electrophysiological responses of identified STT neurons recorded in anesthetized monkeys were compared with psychophysical measurements of pain and hyperalgesia obtained in humans using identical stimuli. 2. Magnitude estimates of pain in humans were obtained after an injection of capsaicin or the vehicle. Capsaicin produced immediate burning pain that was most intense within 15 s after injection and then declined over the next 10-30 min. The vehicle produced no pain. 3. Cutaneous hyperalgesia to gentle stroking (allodynia) and also hyperalgesia to punctate stimulation developed in a wide area surrounding the capsaicin injection. Within this area, magnitude estimates of pain produced by a punctate stimulus (von Frey type with force of 225 mN) increased over preinjection values by an average of sixfold at test sites, 1, 2, and 3 cm away from the injection site. At the capsaicin injection site, magnitude estimates of pain in response to punctate simulation typically remained the same or were decreased. 4. After capsaicin, but not vehicle, the mean heat pain thresholds were lowered from approximately 45 degrees C before injection to 34 degrees C after, but only in the immediate vicinity of the injection site. At a site located 2 cm away, the thresholds were not significantly altered. Similarly, magnitude estimates of pain produced by suprathreshold heat stimuli were increased after capsaicin only at the injection site. 5. STT neurons were classified as high-threshold (HT) or wide-dynamic-range (WDR) cells according to responses evoked by graded cutaneous mechanical stimulation. An intradermal injection of capsaicin excited 4 of 7 HT cells and 10 of 12 WDR cells. The discharge rates of STT neurons correlated in time course with the magnitude estimates of pain in humans. The correlation was considerably better for WDR than for HT neurons, suggesting a predominant contribution of WDR neurons to the pain from capsaicin. 6. Capsaicin significantly increased the responses of HT neurons (9-fold) and the responses of WDR neurons (2-fold) to stroking the skin within the receptive field. Similar increases in responses to a standard punctate stimulus were observed at test sites, 1, 2, and 3 cm away from the injection site. After injection of vehicle, the responses to punctate stimulation increased by a mean of only 1.2- and 1.4-fold for HT and WDR neurons, respectively.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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