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J Neurophysiol. 2019 Jul 10. doi: 10.1152/jn.00274.2019. [Epub ahead of print]

Heterosynaptic facilitation of mechanical nociceptive input is dependent on the frequency of conditioning stimulation.

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Institute of Neuroscience, UClouvain, Belgium.
Universite catholique de Louvain, Institute of Neuroscience, Belgium.
Universite catholique de louvain, Institute of Neuroscience, Belgium.
Institute of Neuroscience (IONS), Universite catholique de Louvain, Belgium.


High-frequency burst-like electrical conditioning stimulation (HFS) applied to human skin induces an increase in mechanical pinprick sensitivity of the surrounding unconditioned skin (a phenomenon known as secondary hyperalgesia). The present study assessed the effect of frequency of conditioning stimulation on the development of this increased pinprick sensitivity in humans. In a first experiment we compared the increase in pinprick sensitivity induced by HFS using monophasic non-charge-compensated pulses and biphasic charge-compensated pulses. High-frequency stimulation, traditionally delivered using non-charge-compensated square-wave pulses, may induce a cumulative depolarization of primary afferents and/or changes in pH at the electrode-tissue interface due to the accumulation of a net residue charge after each pulse. Both could contribute to the development of the increased pinprick sensitivity in a frequency-dependent fashion. We found no significant difference in the increase in pinprick sensitivity between HFS delivered using charge-compensated and non-charge-compensated pulses, indicating that the possible contribution of charge accumulation when non-charge-compensated pulses are used is negligible. In a second experiment, we assessed the effect of different frequencies of conditioning stimulation (5, 20, 42 and 100 Hz) using charge-compensated pulses on the development of increased pinprick sensitivity. The maximal increase in pinprick sensitivity was observed at intermediate frequencies of stimulation (20 and 42 Hz). It is hypothesized that the stronger increase in pinprick sensitivity at intermediate frequencies may be related to the stronger release of substance P and/or neurokinin-1 receptor activation expressed at lamina I neurons following C-fiber stimulation.


frequency; high frequency stimulation; pinprick; secondary hyperalgesia


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