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Anterior cingulate cortex regulates pain catastrophizing-like behaviors in rats

Molecular Brain

Authors: Hyun Jung Jee, Elaine Zhu, Mengqi Sun, Weizhuo Liu, Qiaosheng Zhang, Jing Wang
Publication: Molecular Brain
Date: October 13, 2023
Link to article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13041-023-01060-8


Negative pain expectation including pain catastrophizing is a well-known clinical phenomenon whereby patients amplify the aversive value of a painful or oftentimes even a similar, non-painful stimulus. Mechanisms of pain catastrophizing, however, remain elusive. Here, we modeled pain catastrophizing behavior in rats, and found that rats subjected to repeated noxious pin pricks on one paw demonstrated an aversive response to similar but non-noxious mechanical stimuli delivered to the contralateral paw. Optogenetic inhibition of pyramidal neuron activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during the application of repetitive noxious pin pricks eliminated this catastrophizing behavior. Time-lapse calcium (Ca2+) imaging in the ACC further revealed an increase in spontaneous neural activity after the delivery of noxious stimuli. Together these results suggest that the experience of repeated noxious stimuli may drive hyperactivity in the ACC, causing increased avoidance of subthreshold stimuli, and that reducing this hyperactivity may play a role in treating pain catastrophizing.

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