Spontaneous activity in peripheral sensory nerves: a systematic review

Dongchan Choi, George Goodwin, Edward B Stevens, Nadia Soliman, Barbara Namer, Franziska Denk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the peripheral nervous system, spontaneous activity in sensory neurons is considered to be one of the 2 main drivers of chronic pain states, alongside neuronal sensitization. Despite this, the precise nature and timing of this spontaneous activity in neuropathic pain is not well-established. Here, we have performed a systematic search and data extraction of existing electrophysiological literature to shed light on which fibre types have been shown to maintain spontaneous activity and over what time frame. We examined both in vivo recordings of preclinical models of neuropathic pain, as well as microneurography recordings in humans. Our analyses reveal that there is broad agreement on the presence of spontaneous activity in neuropathic pain conditions, even months after injury or years after onset of neuropathic symptoms in humans. However, because of the highly specialised nature of the electrophysiological methods used to measure spontaneous activity, there is also a high degree of variability and uncertainty around these results. Specifically, there are very few directly controlled experiments, with less directly comparable data between human and animals. Given that spontaneous peripheral neuron activity is considered to be a key mechanistic feature of chronic pain conditions, it may be beneficial to conduct further experiments in this space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-996
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024


  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Chronic Pain/complications
  • Neuralgia/etiology
  • Peripheral Nerves
  • Peripheral Nervous System
  • Sensory Receptor Cells/physiology
  • Chronic Disease


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