AbstractBackground and aimsAlthough neuropathic pain is known to negatively affect cognition, the neural mechanisms involved are poorly understood. Chronic pain is associated with changes in synaptic plasticity in the brain which may impact on cognitive functioning. The aim of this study was to model neuropathic pain in mid-aged rats using spinal nerve ligation (SNL). Following establishment of allodynia and hyperalgesia, behaviour was assessed in a battery of cognitive tests. Expression of the presynaptic protein, synaptophysin, and its colocalisation with the vesicular GABA and glutamate transporters (vGAT and vGLUT, respectively), was investigated in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampus.MethodsNine month old male Sprague Dawley rats underwent L5-L6 spinal nerve ligation or a sham procedure. Mechanical and cold allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia were assessed using von Frey, acetone and Hargreaves tests, respectively. Cognition was assessed in the novel-object recognition, air-puff passive avoidance and Morris water maze behavioural tasks. Immunohistochemistry was used to examine the expression of synaptophysin in the mPFC and CA1 region of the hippocampus and double labelling of synaptophysin and the vesicular transporters vGAT and vGlut was used to investigate the distribution of synaptophysin on GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons.ResultsSNL rats displayed impaired performance in the novel-object recognition task. Passive-avoidance responding, and spatial learning and memory in the Morris water maze, were unaffected by SNL surgery. However, in the water maze reversal task, pain-related impairments were evident during training and probe trials. SNL surgery was not associated with any differences in the expression of synaptophysin or its colocalisation with vGAT or vGLUT in the mPFC or the hippocampal CA1 region.ConclusionsThese results suggest that the SNL model of neuropathic pain is associated with deficits in recognition memory and cognitive flexibility, but these deficits are not associated with altered synaptophysin expression or distribution in the mPFC and CA1. ImplicationsCognitive complaints are common amongst chronic pain patients. Here we modelled cognitive impairment in a well-established animal model of neuropathic pain and investigated the neural mechanisms involved. A better understanding of this phenomenon is an important prerequisite for the development of improved treatment of patients affected.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Jan 1, 2016
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