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Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2011 Jun;15(3):215-22. doi: 10.1007/s11916-011-0186-2.

Neuronal hyperexcitability: a substrate for central neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury.

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Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1043, USA.


Neuronal hyperexcitability produces enhanced pain transmission in the spinal dorsal horn after spinal cord injury (SCI). Spontaneous and evoked neuronal excitability normally are well controlled by neural circuits. However, SCI produces maladaptive synaptic circuits in the spinal dorsal horn that result in neuronal hyperexcitability. After SCI, activated primary afferent neurons produce enhanced release of glutamate, neuropeptides, adenosine triphosphate, and proinflammatory cytokines, which are known to be major components for pain transmission in the spinal dorsal horn. Enhanced neurochemical events contribute to neuronal hyperexcitability, and neuroanatomical changes also contribute to maladaptive synaptic circuits and neuronal hyperexcitability. These neurochemical and neuroanatomical changes produce enhanced cellular signaling cascades that ensure persistently enhanced pain transmission. This review describes altered neurochemical and neuroanatomical contributions on neuronal hyperexcitability in the spinal dorsal horn, which serve as substrates for central neuropathic pain after SCI.

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