Potential of animal models for advancing the understanding and treatment of pain in Parkinson's disease

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Pain is a commonly occurring non-motor symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD). Treatment of pain in PD remains less than optimal and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms would facilitate discovery of improved analgesics. Animal models of PD have already proven helpful for furthering the understanding and treatment of motor symptoms of PD, but could these models offer insight into pain in PD? This review addresses the current position regarding pain in preclinical models of PD, covering the face and predictive validity of existing models and their use so far in advancing understanding of the mechanisms contributing to pain in PD. While pain itself is not usually measured in animals, nociception in the form of thermal, mechanical or chemical nociceptive thresholds offers a useful readout, given reduced nociceptive thresholds are commonly seen in PD patients. Animal models of PD including the reserpine-treated rat and neurodegenerative models such as the MPTP-treated mouse and 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-treated rat each exhibit reduced nociceptive thresholds, supporting face validity of these models. Furthermore, some interventions known clinically to relieve pain in PD, such as dopaminergic therapies and deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus, restore nociceptive thresholds in one or more models, supporting their predictive validity. Mechanistic insight gained already includes involvement of central and spinal dopamine and opioid systems. Moving forward, these preclinical models should advance understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying pain in PD and provide test beds for examining the efficacy of novel analgesics to better treat this debilitating non-motor symptom.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalNature Parkinson's Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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