Research ArticleNeuroscience

An Increase in Synaptic NMDA Receptors in the Insular Cortex Contributes to Neuropathic Pain

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Science Signaling  14 May 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 275, pp. ra34
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003778

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Stopping the Pain

Damage to the central or peripheral nervous system can trigger the development of neuropathic pain, which can manifest as painful sensations in response to stimuli that are not normally painful. Qiu et al. found that mice that had developed neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury showed changes in synaptic plasticity and increased abundance of synaptic NMDA receptors in the insular cortex, a region of the brain that is activated by acute and chronic pain. Using pharmacological inhibitors and transgenic mice, they mimicked these changes in vitro with insular cortical slices and thus identified the signaling pathway responsible. Mice injected with NMDA receptor inhibitors showed reduced behavioral signs of neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury. Thus, blocking NMDA receptor function in the insular cortex may prevent the development of neuropathic pain.

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