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Eur J Pain. 2011 Aug;15(7):676-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.11.017. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Representation of dynamic mechanical allodynia in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex of trigeminal neuropathic rats.

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Clermont Université, Université d'Auvergne, Neurobiologie de douleur trigémiale, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Trigeminal neuropathic pain is due to lesion or dysfunction of the nervous system. Dynamic mechanical allodynia is a widespread symptom of neuropathic pain for which mechanisms are still poorly understood. Recent studies demonstrate that forebrain neurons, including neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are important for the perception of acute and chronic pain. Using the phosphorylation of the extracellular-signal regulated kinase (pERK-1/2) as an anatomical marker of neuronal activation, the present study investigated how dynamic mechanical allodynia is processed in the rat ventral mPFC (prelimbic and infralimbic cortex) after chronic constriction injury to the infraorbital nerve (IoN-CCI). Two weeks after unilateral IoN-CCI, rats showed a dramatic bilateral trigeminal dynamic mechanical allodynia. Light, moving stroking of the infraorbital skin resulted in strong, bilateral upregulation of pERK-1/2 in the ventral mPFC of IoN-CCI animals. pERK-1/2 was located in neuronal cells only. Stimulus-evoked pERK-1/2 immunopositive cell bodies displayed a rostrocaudal gradient and layer-selective distribution in the ventral mPFC, being predominant in the rostral ventral mPFC and in layers II-III and V-VI of the ventral mPFC. In layers II-III, intense pERK-1/2 also extended into distal dendrites, up to layer I. These results demonstrate that trigeminal nerve injury induces a significant alteration in the ventral mPFC processing of tactile stimuli and suggest that ERK phosphorylation contributes to the mechanisms underlying abnormal pain perception under this condition.

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