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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2016 Dec 15;18(1):20-30. doi: 10.1038/nrn.2016.162.

Structural plasticity and reorganisation in chronic pain.

Kuner R1,2, Flor H3,2.

Author information

Institute of Pharmacology, Heidelberg University.
Excellence Cluster 'Cellular Networks' Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 366, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, and Department of Psychology, University of Mannheim, J 5, 68159 Mannheim, Germany.


Chronic pain is not simply a temporal continuum of acute pain. Studies on functional plasticity in neural circuits of pain have provided mechanistic insights and linked various modulatory factors to a change in perception and behaviour. However, plasticity also occurs in the context of structural remodelling and reorganisation of synapses, cells and circuits, potentially contributing to the long-term nature of chronic pain. This Review discusses maladaptive structural plasticity in neural circuits of pain, spanning multiple anatomical and spatial scales in animal models and human patients, and addresses key questions on structure-function relationships.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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