On/Off Pain Control Center Identified in Mouse Brain

May 26, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 4-5 minutes

GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News published an interesting article covering Biotech:

A Duke University research team has identified a small area of the mouse brain that can profoundly control the animals’ sense of pain. Their studies found a specific subpopulation of nerve cells within the amygdala, which, when activated, unexpectedly turn pain off, rather than on. The amygdala is not a part of the brain that would be an obvious candidate for harboring a pain control center, as it’s generally linked with negative emotions and responses, such as the fight-or-flight response and general anxiety.

The researchers hope that their findings could lead to the development of a new generation of painkillers that specifically target these neurons. “Pain is a complicated brain response,” said Fan Wang, PhD, the Morris N. Broad distinguished professor of neurobiology in the School of Medicine, and senior author of the team’s published paper in Nature Neuroscience. “It involves sensory discrimination, emotion, and autonomic (involuntary nervous system) responses. Treating pain by dampening all of these brain processes in many areas is very difficult to achieve. But activating a key node that naturally sends inhibitory signals to these pain-processing regions would be more robust.”

Wang and colleagues reported their findings in a paper titled, “General anesthetics activate a potent central pain-suppression circuit in the amygdala.”

One of the main effects of general anesthesia (GA) is analgesia, or loss of pain perception, and this can occur independently to loss of consciousness, the authors wrote. Some patients report that even under GA they are aware of conversations in the operating room, but don’t feel any pain, and this suggests that “there could be a specific analgesic pathway that is independent of the loss-of-consciousness effects of GA drugs,” the investigators noted. “People do believe there is a central place to relieve p... You can view the full article in the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (GEN) Blog.

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