Tactile, or touch, information now appears to play a fundamental role in guiding the functional maturation of the pain sensitivity system during normal development. This explains how the pain system can be functionally adapted despite the rare occurrence of noxious stimuli during development. Maintained input over "pain" fibers after injury may instead perturb normal development and cause long-term maladaptive changes in somatosensory and pain processing. Developmental mechanisms thus determine the structure and synaptic strengths in the "pain" transmission system.
Scientists now know that synaptic strength can also be modified for prolonged periods of time in the adult following injury, trauma, or inflammation, likely contributing to phenomena such as hyperalgesia and allodynia, namely exacerbated pain in response to painful stimuli, and pain in response to normally innocuous stimuli, respectively. A symposium at this meeting will summarize recent breakthroughs on the experience-dependent mechanisms that determine the adult organization of spinal pain systems and pain sensitivity.
Touch input guides the normal maturation of the pain system, says Professor Jens Schouenborg, MD, of the University of Lund in Sweden, chair of the symposium. "The organization of the pain system has for a long time been assumed to be essentially innate, i.e., to develop independently of experience. However, several recent findings instead indicate that the pain system undergoes profound experience-dependent reorganization during development," says Schouenborg.
Using computer modeling and behavioral experiments, Schouenborg and his colleagues report that tactile feedback ensuing on spontaneous muscle twitches during sleep has a key role in guiding the fun
Contact: Dawn McCoy
Society for Neuroscience