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J Pain. 2011 Jan;12(1):51-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.04.008. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Analgesia induced by 2- or 100-Hz electroacupuncture in the rat tail-flick test depends on the activation of different descending pain inhibitory mechanisms.

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Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto-USP, Avenida Bandeirantes 3900, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.


We evaluated the effectiveness of intrathecal antagonists of α1- (WB4101) and α2- (idazoxan) adrenoceptors and serotonergic (methysergide), opioid (naloxone), muscarinic (atropine), GABA(A) (bicuculline) and GABA(B) (phaclofen) receptors in blocking 2- or 100-Hz electroacupuncture (EA)-induced analgesia (EAIA) in the rat tail-flick test. EA was applied bilaterally to the Zusanli and Sanyinjiao acupoints in lightly anesthetized rats. EA increased tail-flick latency, where the effect of 2-Hz EA lasted longer than that produced by 100-Hz EA. The 2-Hz EAIA was inhibited by naloxone or atropine, was less intense and shorter after WB4101 or idazoxan, and was shorter after methysergide, bicuculline, or phaclofen. The 100-Hz EAIA was less intense and shorter after naloxone and atropine, less intense and longer after phaclofen, shorter after methysergide or bicuculline, and remained unchanged after WB4101 or idazoxan. We postulate that the intensity of the effect of 2-Hz EA depends on noradrenergic descending mechanisms and involves spinal opioid and muscarinic mechanisms, whereas the duration of the effect depends on both noradrenergic and serotonergic descending mechanisms, and involves spinal GABAergic modulation. In contrast, the intensity of 100-Hz EAIA involves spinal muscarinic, opioid, and GABA(B) mechanisms, while the duration of the effects depends on spinal serotonergic, muscarinic, opioid, and GABA(A) mechanisms.


The results of this study indicate that 2- and 100-Hz EA induce analgesia in the rat tail-flick test activating different descending mechanisms at the spinal cord level that control the intensity and duration of the effect. The adequate pharmacological manipulation of such mechanisms may improve EA effectiveness for pain management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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