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      Potential Mechanisms Underlying Centralized Pain and Emerging Therapeutic Interventions


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          Centralized pain syndromes are associated with changes within the central nervous system that amplify peripheral input and/or generate the perception of pain in the absence of a noxious stimulus. Examples of idiopathic functional disorders that are often categorized as centralized pain syndromes include fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain syndromes, migraine, and temporomandibular disorder. Patients often suffer from widespread pain, associated with more than one specific syndrome, and report fatigue, mood and sleep disturbances, and poor quality of life. The high degree of symptom comorbidity and a lack of definitive underlying etiology make these syndromes notoriously difficult to treat. The main purpose of this review article is to discuss potential mechanisms of centrally-driven pain amplification and how they may contribute to increased comorbidity, poorer pain outcomes, and decreased quality of life in patients diagnosed with centralized pain syndromes, as well as discuss emerging non-pharmacological therapies that improve symptomology associated with these syndromes. Abnormal regulation and output of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is commonly associated with centralized pain disorders. The HPA axis is the primary stress response system and its activation results in downstream production of cortisol and a dampening of the immune response. Patients with centralized pain syndromes often present with hyper- or hypocortisolism and evidence of altered downstream signaling from the HPA axis including increased Mast cell (MC) infiltration and activation, which can lead to sensitization of nearby nociceptive afferents. Increased peripheral input via nociceptor activation can lead to “hyperalgesic priming” and/or “wind-up” and eventually to central sensitization through long term potentiation in the central nervous system. Other evidence of central modifications has been observed through brain imaging studies of functional connectivity and magnetic resonance spectroscopy and are shown to contribute to the widespreadness of pain and poor mood in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic urological pain. Non-pharmacological therapeutics, including exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), have shown great promise in treating symptoms of centralized pain.

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          Two receptor systems for corticosterone in rat brain: microdistribution and differential occupation.

          Two receptor systems for corticosterone (CORT) can be distinguished in rat brain: mineralocorticoid-like or CORT receptors (CR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR). The microdistribution and extent of occupation of each receptor population by CORT were studied. The CR system is restricted predominantly to the lateral septum and hippocampus. Within the hippocampus, the highest density occurs in the subiculum +/- CA1 cell field (144 fmol/mg protein) and the dentate gyrus (104 fmol/mg protein). Affinity of CR for CORT was very high (Kd, approximately 0.5 nM). The GR system has a more widespread distribution in the brain. The highest density for GR is in the lateral septum (195 fmol/mg protein), the dentate gyrus (133 fmol/mg protein), the nucleus tractus solitarii and central amygdala. Substantial amounts of GR are present in the paraventricular nucleus and locus coeruleus and low amounts in the raphe area and the subiculum + CA1 cell field. The affinity of GR for CORT (Kd, approximately 2.5-5 nM) was 6- to 10-fold lower than that of CR. Occupation of CR by endogenous ligand was 89.5% during morning trough levels of pituitary-adrenal activity (plasma CORT, 1.4 micrograms/100 ml). Similar levels of occupation (88.7% and 97.6%) were observed at the diurnal peak (plasma CORT, 27 micrograms/100 ml) and after 1 h of restraint stress (plasma CORT, 25 micrograms/100 ml), respectively. Furthermore, a dose of 1 microgram CORT/100 g BW, sc, resulted in 80% CORT receptor occupation, whereas GR were not occupied. For 50% occupation of GR, doses needed to be increased to 50-100 micrograms/100 g BW, and for 95% occupation, a dose of 1 mg CORT was required. The plasma CORT level at the time of half-maximal GR occupation was about 25 micrograms/100 ml, which is in the range of levels attained after stress or during the diurnal peak of pituitary-adrenal activity. Thus, CR are extensively filled (greater than 90%) with endogenous CORT under most circumstances, while GR become occupied concurrent with increasing plasma CORT concentrations due to stress or diurnal rhythm. We conclude that CORT action via CR may be involved in a tonic (permissive) influence on brain function with the septohippocampal complex as a primary target. In view of the almost complete occupation of CR by endogenous hormones, the regulation of the CORT signal via CR will, most likely, be by alterations in the number of such receptors. In contrast, CORT action via GR is involved in its feedback action on stress-activated brain mechanisms, and GR occur widely in the brain.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
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            Activated mast cells in proximity to colonic nerves correlate with abdominal pain in irritable bowel syndrome.

            The mechanisms underlying abdominal pain perception in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are poorly understood. Intestinal mast cell infiltration may perturb nerve function leading to symptom perception. We assessed colonic mast cell infiltration, mediator release, and spatial interactions with mucosal innervation and their correlation with abdominal pain in IBS patients. IBS patients were diagnosed according to Rome II criteria and abdominal pain quantified according to a validated questionnaire. Colonic mucosal mast cells were identified immunohistochemically and quantified with a computer-assisted counting method. Mast cell tryptase and histamine release were analyzed immunoenzymatically. Intestinal nerve to mast cell distance was assessed with electron microscopy. Thirty-four out of 44 IBS patients (77%) showed an increased area of mucosa occupied by mast cells as compared with controls (9.2% +/- 2.5% vs. 3.3 +/- 0.8%, respectively; P < 0.001). There was a 150% increase in the number of degranulating mast cells (4.76 +/- 3.18/field vs. 2.42 +/- 2.26/field, respectively; P = 0.026). Mucosal content of tryptase was increased in IBS and mast cells spontaneously released more tryptase (3.22 +/- 3.48 pmol/min/mg vs. 0.87 +/- 0.65 pmol/min/mg, respectively; P = 0.015) and histamine (339.7 +/- 59.0 ng/g vs. 169.3 +/- 130.6 ng/g, respectively; P = 0.015). Mast cells located within 5 microm of nerve fibers were 7.14 +/- 3.87/field vs. 2.27 +/- 1.63/field in IBS vs. controls (P < 0.001). Only mast cells in close proximity to nerves were significantly correlated with severity and frequency of abdominal pain/discomfort (P < 0.001 and P = 0.003, respectively). Colonic mast cell infiltration and mediator release in proximity to mucosal innervation may contribute to abdominal pain perception in IBS patients.
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              Chronic back pain is associated with decreased prefrontal and thalamic gray matter density.

              The role of the brain in chronic pain conditions remains speculative. We compared brain morphology of 26 chronic back pain (CBP) patients to matched control subjects, using magnetic resonance imaging brain scan data and automated analysis techniques. CBP patients were divided into neuropathic, exhibiting pain because of sciatic nerve damage, and non-neuropathic groups. Pain-related characteristics were correlated to morphometric measures. Neocortical gray matter volume was compared after skull normalization. Patients with CBP showed 5-11% less neocortical gray matter volume than control subjects. The magnitude of this decrease is equivalent to the gray matter volume lost in 10-20 years of normal aging. The decreased volume was related to pain duration, indicating a 1.3 cm3 loss of gray matter for every year of chronic pain. Regional gray matter density in 17 CBP patients was compared with matched controls using voxel-based morphometry and nonparametric statistics. Gray matter density was reduced in bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right thalamus and was strongly related to pain characteristics in a pattern distinct for neuropathic and non-neuropathic CBP. Our results imply that CBP is accompanied by brain atrophy and suggest that the pathophysiology of chronic pain includes thalamocortical processes.

                Author and article information

                Front Cell Neurosci
                Front Cell Neurosci
                Front. Cell. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                13 February 2018
                : 12
                : 35
                [1] 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Kansas Medical Center , Kansas City, KS, United States
                [2] 2Department of Anesthesiology, University of Kansas Medical Center , Kansas City, KS, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Greg Dussor, The University of Texas at Dallas, United States

                Reviewed by: Gordon Alfred Barr, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, United States; Beverley Greenwood-VanMeerveld, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, United States

                *Correspondence: Julie A. Christianson jchristianson@ 123456kumc.edu
                Copyright © 2018 Eller-Smith, Nicol and Christianson.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 27 October 2017
                : 30 January 2018
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 229, Pages: 18, Words: 16883
                Funded by: National Institutes of Health 10.13039/100000002
                Award ID: DK099611, DK103872, GM123320, HD057850

                stress,hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (hpa) axis,pain,exercise,cognitive behavioral therapy,central sensitization,mast cells


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