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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2014;20:121-45. doi: 10.1007/7854_2014_332.

Operant assays for assessing pain in preclinical rodent models: highlights from an orofacial assay.

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Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA,


Despite an immense investment of resources, pain remains at epidemic proportions. Given this, there has been an increased effort toward appraising the process by which new painkillers are developed, focusing specifically on why so few analgesics make it from the benchside to the bedside. The use of behavioral assays and animal modeling for the preclinical stages of analgesic development is being reexamined to determine whether they are truly relevant, meaningful, and predictive. Consequently, there is a strengthening consensus that the traditional reflex-based assays upon which several decades of preclinical pain research has been based are inadequate. Thus, investigators have recently turned to the development of new preclinical assays with improved face, content, and predictive validity. In this regard, operant pain assays show considerable promise, as they are more sensitive, present better validity, and, importantly, better encompass the psychological and affective dimensions of pain that trouble human pain sufferers. Here, we briefly compare and contrast reflex assays with operant assays, and we introduce a particular operant orofacial pain assay used in a variety of experiments to emphasize how operant pain assays can be applied to preclinical studies of pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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