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Activation of the descending pain modulatory system using cuff pressure algometry: Back translation from man to rat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Tatum M. Cummins, Mateusz M. Kucharczyk, Thomas Graven-Nielsen, Kirsty Bannister

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1330-1338
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
Issue number7
Published1 Aug 2020

King's Authors


Background: Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) as measured in rat and conditioned pain modulation (CPM), the supposed psychophysical paradigm of DNIC measured in humans, are unique manifestations of an endogenous descending modulatory pathway that is activated by the application of a noxious conditioning stimulus. The predictive value of the human CPM processing is crucial when deliberating the translational worth of the two phenomena. Methods: For CPM or DNIC measurement, test and conditioning stimuli were delivered using a computer-controlled cuff algometry system or manual inflation of neonate blood pressure cuffs, respectively. In humans (n = 20), cuff pain intensity (for pain detection and pain tolerance thresholds) was measured using an electronic visual analogue scale. In isoflurane-anaesthetized naïve rats, nociception was measured by recording deep dorsal horn wide dynamic range (WDR) neuronal firing rates (n = 7) using in vivo electrophysiology. Results: A painful cuff-pressure conditioning stimulus on the leg increased pain detection and pain tolerance thresholds recorded by cuff stimulation on the contralateral leg in humans by 32% ± 3% and 24% ± 2% (mean ± SEM) of baseline responses, respectively (p <.001). This finding was back-translated by revealing that a comparable cuff-pressure conditioning stimulus (40 kPa) on the hind paw inhibited the responses of WDR neurons to noxious contralateral cuff test stimulation to 42% ± 9% of the baseline neuronal response (p =.003). Conclusions: These data substantiate that the noxious cuff pressure paradigm activates the descending pain modulatory system in rodent (DNIC) and man (CPM), respectively. Future back and forward translational studies using cuff pressure algometry may reveal novel mechanisms in varied chronic pain states. Significance: This study provides novel evidence that a comparable noxious cuff pressure paradigm activates a unique form of endogenous inhibitory control in healthy rat and man. This has important implications for the forward translation of bench and experimental pain research findings to the clinical domain. If translatable mechanisms underlying dysfunctional endogenous inhibitory descending pathway expression (previously evidenced in painful states in rat and man) were revealed using cuff pressure algometry, the identification of new analgesic targets could be expedited.

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