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  • Descending Control Mechanisms and Chronic Pain CURRENT RHEUMATOLOGY REPORTS Chen, Q., Heinricher, M. M. 2019; 21 (5)
  • Plasticity in the Link between Pain-Transmitting and Pain-Modulating Systems in Acute and Persistent Inflammation JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Chen, Q., Heinricher, M. M. 2019; 39 (11): 2065?79

    Abstract

    There is strong evidence that spinoparabrachial neurons in the superficial dorsal horn contribute to persistent pain states, and that the lateral parabrachial complex (PB) conveys relevant nociceptive information to higher structures. The role of PB itself in hyperalgesia and how it recruits descending facilitation has nevertheless received significantly less attention. The current study is a first step toward delineating the functional dynamics of PB and its link to descending control in acute and persistent inflammatory pain. In lightly anesthetized rats, we recorded behavioral withdrawal evoked by mechanical stimulation of the hindpaw and, simultaneously, the activity of identified pain-modulating neurons, "ON-cells" and "OFF-cells," in the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM). This was done before and after the inactivation of PB, contralateral or ipsilateral to an inflamed paw [1 h, 1 d, or 5-6 d after intraplantar injection of Complete Freund's Adjuvant (CFA)]. The inactivation of contralateral, but not ipsilateral, PB interfered with nociceptive input to RVM under basal conditions, as well as in acute inflammation. By contrast, blocking ipsilateral, but not contralateral, PB in established inflammation interfered with behavioral hyperalgesia and ON-cell and OFF-cell responses. The lesioning of contralateral PB before CFA injection prevented this recruitment of ipsilateral PB in persistent inflammation. These experiments show that contralateral PB is required to initiate hyperalgesia, which is then maintained by ipsilateral PB, most likely in both cases via the engagement of pain-modulating neurons of the RVM.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The lateral parabrachial complex (PB) relays nociceptive information to brain circuits that are important for the transmission and modulation of pain, but its specific role in persistent pain and engagement of descending control mechanisms has received relatively little attention. We show here that PB contralateral and ipsilateral to an inflammatory insult demonstrate different functions as inflammation persists, likely by engaging pain-facilitating neurons of the rostral ventromedial medulla. While the contralateral PB, the target of the major spinoparabrachial pathway, relays acute nociceptive information, the ipsilateral PB is recruited or unmasked in persistent inflammation to maintain hyperalgesia. These data point to plasticity in the PB itself or its direct and indirect connections with pain-modulating systems as central to the development and maintenance of persistent pain.

    View details for PubMedID 30651329

  • Descending Control Mechanisms and Chronic Pain. Current rheumatology reports Chen, Q., Heinricher, M. M. 2019; 21 (5): 13

    Abstract

    PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The goal of the review was to highlight recent advances in our understanding of descending pain-modulating systems and how these contribute to persistent pain states, with an emphasis on the current state of knowledge around "bottom-up" (sensory) and "top-down" (higher structures mediating cognitive and emotional processing) influences on pain-modulating circuits.RECENT FINDINGS: The connectivity, physiology, and function of these systems have been characterized extensively over the last 30years. The field is now beginning to ask how and when these systems are engaged to modulate pain. A recent focus is on the parabrachial complex, now recognized as the major relay of nociceptive information to pain-modulating circuits, and plasticity in this circuit and its connections to the RVM is marked in persistent inflammatory pain. Top-down influences from higher structures, including hypothalamus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal areas, are also considered. The challenge will be to tease out mechanisms through which a particular behavioral context engages distinct circuits to enhance or suppress pain, and to understand how these mechanisms contribute to chronic pain.

    View details for PubMedID 30830471

  • Efficacy of Dextromethorphan/Quinidine for Patients With Psychosis-Related Aggression: A Retrospective Case Series. The primary care companion for CNS disorders Chen, Q., Calcagno, H. E., Shad, M. 2018; 20 (3)

    Abstract

    Treatment-resistant aggressive behavior is a complex psychoneurological phenomenon with high health care and societal costs commonly observed in mental illnesses involving psychosis. Here, we report a preliminary evaluation of treatment with dextromethorphan/quinidine in 4 adult patients with significant history of psychosis-related aggression and impulsive behaviors.The files of 4 inpatients with DSM-5-defined psychotic disorder and treatment-resistant aggression treated at the Oregon State Hospital (Salem, Oregon) between June and November of 2017 were retrospectively analyzed. The patients (age: mean SD = 59.8 7.6) received open-label treatment with dextromethorphan/quinidine (final dose 20 mg/10 mg twice daily) for at least 12 weeks. Outcome was measured on the basis of patient self-report, treatment team evaluation, and physical examination by psychiatrists and primary care physicians.Three of the 4 patients were considered responders to dextromethorphan/quinidine based on clinical impressions of reduction in aggression and impulsive behavior. The nonresponder, who had a history of multiple traumatic brain injuries, showed mild improvement in agitation but continued to display impulsive self-harm behavior despite treatment. Dextromethorphan/quinidine was generally well-tolerated. No metabolic, gastrointestinal, or cardiovascular side effects were observed.These preliminary findings support dextromethorphan/quinidine as a potential alternative to conventional regimens for treating aggression and impulsive behavior in patients with psychotic disorder. These results should be interpreted cautiously, as extended, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies with a larger sample size are needed to validate findings from this retrospective case series.

    View details for PubMedID 29985567

  • Effectiveness of Dextromethorphan/Quinidine in Frontotemporal Dementia. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry Chen, Q., Ermann, A., Shad, M. U. 2018; 26 (4): 506

    View details for PubMedID 29132987

  • Unmasking the Pain in Latent Sensitization. Neuroscience Chen, Q., Heinricher, M. M. 2018; 381: 159?60

    View details for PubMedID 29776485

  • Optogenetic Evidence for a Direct Circuit Linking Nociceptive Transmission through the Parabrachial Complex with Pain-Modulating Neurons of the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla (RVM). eNeuro Chen, Q., Roeder, Z., Li, M. H., Zhang, Y., Ingram, S. L., Heinricher, M. M. 2017; 4 (3)

    Abstract

    The parabrachial complex (PB) is a functionally and anatomically complex structure involved in a range of homeostatic and sensory functions, including nociceptive transmission. There is also evidence that PB can engage descending pain-modulating systems, the best characterized of which is the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM). Two distinct classes of RVM neurons, "ON-cells" and "OFF-cells," exert net pronociceptive and anti-nociceptive effects, respectively. PB was recently shown to be a relay of nociceptive information to RVM ON- and OFF-cells. The present experiments used optogenetic methods in a lightly anesthetized rat and an adult RVM slice to determine whether there are direct, functionally relevant inputs to RVM pain-modulating neurons from PB. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings demonstrated that PB conveys direct glutamatergic and GABAergic inputs to RVM neurons. Consistent with this, in vivo recording showed that nociceptive-evoked responses of ON- and OFF-cells were suppressed by optogenetic inactivation of archaerhodopsin (ArchT)-expressing PB terminals in RVM, demonstrating that a net inhibitory input to OFF-cells and net excitatory input to ON-cells are engaged by acute noxious stimulation. Further, the majority of ON- and OFF-cells responded to optogenetic activation of channelrhodopsin (ChR2)-expressing terminals in the RVM, confirming a direct PB influence on RVM pain-modulating neurons. These data show that a direct connection from the PB to the RVM conveys nociceptive information to the pain-modulating neurons of RVM under basal conditions. They also reveal additional inputs from PB with the capacity to activate both classes of RVM pain-modulating neurons and the potential to be recruited under different physiological and pathophysiological conditions.

    View details for PubMedID 28660248

  • Parabrachial complex links pain transmission to descending pain modulation. Pain Roeder, Z., Chen, Q., Davis, S., Carlson, J. D., Tupone, D., Heinricher, M. M. 2016; 157 (12): 2697?2708

    Abstract

    The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) has a well-documented role in pain modulation and exerts antinociceptive and pronociceptive influences mediated by 2 distinct classes of neurons, OFF-cells and ON-cells. OFF-cells are defined by a sudden pause in firing in response to nociceptive inputs, whereas ON-cells are characterized by a "burst" of activity. Although these reflex-related changes in ON- and OFF-cell firing are critical to their pain-modulating function, the pathways mediating these responses have not been identified. The present experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that nociceptive input to the RVM is relayed through the parabrachial complex (PB). In electrophysiological studies, ON- and OFF-cells were recorded in the RVM of lightly anesthetized male rats before and after an infusion of lidocaine or muscimol into PB. The ON-cell burst and OFF-cell pause evoked by noxious heat or mechanical probing were substantially attenuated by inactivation of the lateral, but not medial, parabrachial area. Retrograde tracing studies showed that neurons projecting to the RVM were scattered throughout PB. Few of these neurons expressed calcitonin gene-related peptide, suggesting that the RVM projection from PB is distinct from that to the amygdala. These data show that a substantial component of "bottom-up" nociceptive drive to RVM pain-modulating neurons is relayed through the PB. While the PB is well known as an important relay for ascending nociceptive information, its functional connection with the RVM allows the spinoparabrachial pathway to access descending control systems as part of a recurrent circuit.

    View details for PubMedID 27657698

  • Contribution of adenylyl cyclase modulation of pre- and postsynaptic GABA neurotransmission to morphine antinociception and tolerance. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Bobeck, E. N., Chen, Q., Morgan, M. M., Ingram, S. L. 2014; 39 (9): 2142?52

    Abstract

    Opioid inhibition of presynaptic GABA release in the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) activates the descending antinociception pathway. Tolerance to repeated opioid administration is associated with upregulation of adenylyl cyclase activity. The objective of these studies was to test the hypothesis that adenylyl cyclase contributes to opioid tolerance by modulating GABA neurotransmission. Repeated microinjections of morphine or the adenylyl cyclase activator NKH477 into the vlPAG decreased morphine antinociception as would be expected with the development of tolerance. Conversely, microinjection of the adenylyl cyclase inhibitor SQ22536 reversed both the development and expression of morphine tolerance. These behavioral results indicate that morphine tolerance is dependent on adenylyl cyclase activation. Electrophysiological experiments revealed that acute activation of adenylyl cyclase with forskolin increased the frequency of presynaptic GABA release. However, recordings from rats treated with repeated morphine administration did not exhibit increased basal miniature inhibitory postsynaptic current (mIPSC) frequency but showed a decrease in mean amplitude of mIPSCs indicating that repeated morphine administration modulates postsynaptic GABAA receptors without affecting the probability of presynaptic GABA release. SQ22536 reversed this change in mIPSC amplitude and inhibited mIPSC frequency selectively in morphine tolerant rats. Repeated morphine or NKH477 administration also decreased antinociception induced by microinjection of the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline, further demonstrating changes in GABA neurotransmission with morphine tolerance. These results show that the upregulation of adenylyl cyclase caused by repeated vlPAG morphine administration produces antinociceptive tolerance by modulating both pre- and postsynaptic GABA neurotransmission.

    View details for PubMedID 24622471

  • Empathy is moderated by genetic background in mice. PloS one Chen, Q., Panksepp, J. B., Lahvis, G. P. 2009; 4 (2): e4387

    Abstract

    Empathy, as originally defined, refers to an emotional experience that is shared among individuals. When discomfort or alarm is detected in another, a variety of behavioral responses can follow, including greater levels of nurturing, consolation or increased vigilance towards a threat. Moreover, changes in systemic physiology often accompany the recognition of distressed states in others. Employing a mouse model of cue-conditioned fear, we asked whether exposure to conspecific distress influences how a mouse subsequently responds to environmental cues that predict this distress. We found that mice are responsive to environmental cues that predict social distress, that their heart rate changes when distress vocalizations are emitted from conspecifics, and that genetic background substantially influences the magnitude of these responses. Specifically, during a series of pre-exposure sessions, repeated experiences of object mice that were exposed to a tone-shock (CS-UCS) contingency resulted in heart rate deceleration in subjects from the gregarious C57BL/6J (B6) strain, but not in subjects from the less social BALB/cJ (BALB) strain. Following the pre-exposure sessions, subjects were individually presented with the CS-only for 5 consecutive trials followed by 5 consecutive pairings of the CS with the UCS. Pre-exposure to object distress increased the freezing responses of B6 mice, but not BALB mice, on both the CS-only and the CS-UCS trials. These physiological and behavioral responses of B6 mice to social distress parallel features of human empathy. Our paradigm thus has construct and face validity with contemporary views of empathy, and provides unequivocal evidence for a genetic contribution to the expression of empathic behavior.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0004387

    View details for PubMedID 19209221

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2633046

  • Affiliative behavior, ultrasonic communication and social reward are influenced by genetic variation in adolescent mice. PloS one Panksepp, J. B., Jochman, K. A., Kim, J. U., Koy, J. J., Wilson, E. D., Chen, Q., Wilson, C. R., Lahvis, G. P. 2007; 2 (4): e351

    Abstract

    Social approach is crucial for establishing relationships among individuals. In rodents, social approach has been studied primarily within the context of behavioral phenomena related to sexual reproduction, such as mating, territory defense and parental care. However, many forms of social interaction occur before the onset of reproductive maturity, which suggests that some processes underlying social approach among juvenile animals are probably distinct from those in adults. We conducted a longitudinal study of social investigation (SI) in mice from two inbred strains to assess the extent to which genetic factors influence the motivation for young mice to approach one another. Early-adolescent C57BL/6J (B6) mice, tested 4-6 days after weaning, investigated former cage mates to a greater degree than BALB/cJ (BALB) mice, irrespective of the sex composition within an interacting pair. This strain difference was not due to variation in maternal care, the phenotypic characteristics of stimulus mice or sensitivity to the length of isolation prior to testing, nor was it attributable to a general difference in appetitive motivation. Ultrasonic vocalization (USV) production was positively correlated with the SI responses of mice from both strains. Interestingly, several USV characteristics segregated with the genetic background of young mice, including a higher average frequency and shorter duration for the USVs emitted by B6 mice. An assessment of conditioned place preference responses indicated that there was a strain-dependent difference in the rewarding nature of social contact. As adolescent mice aged, SI responses gradually became less sensitive to genetic background and more responsive to the particular sex of individuals within an interacting pair. We have thus identified a specific, genetic influence on the motivation of early-adolescent mice to approach one another. Consistent with classical theories of motivation, which propose a functional relationship between behavioral approach and reward, our findings indicate that reward is a proximal mechanism through which genetic factors affect social motivation during early adolescence.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0000351

    View details for PubMedID 17406675

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC1831495

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