Plastic Pain Perception

Science Signaling  11 Aug 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 83, pp. ec269
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.283ec269

Drugs and endocannabinoids acting on cannabinoid (CB) receptors have potential in the treatment of certain types of pain. In the spinal cord, they are believed to suppress nociception, the perception of pain and noxious stimuli. Pernía-Andrade et al. now find that endocannabinoids, which are released in the spinal cord by noxious stimulation, may promote rather than inhibit nociception by acting on CB1 receptors. Endocannabinoids not only depress transmission at excitatory synapses in the spinal cord but also block the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters, thereby facilitating nociception.

A. J. Pernía-Andrade, A. Kato, R. Witschi, R. Nyilas, I. Katona, T. F. Freund, M. Watanabe, J. Filitz, W. Koppert, J. Schüttler, G. Ji, V. Neugebauer, G. Marsicano, B. Lutz, H. Vanegas, H. U. Zeilhofer, Spinal endocannabinoids and CB1 receptors mediate C-fiber–induced heterosynaptic pain sensitization. Science 325, 760–764 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]