Painful stimulation of a sensitized site in the forearm inhibits ipsilateral trigeminal nociceptive blink reflexes
Exposure to moderate levels of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) is painless but nevertheless induces an inflammatory response that sensitizes primary afferent nociceptors. Subsequently, heating the UVB-treated site can sensitize spinal nociceptors. We used a repeated-measures design to determine whether heating the UVB-treated site also triggers ipsilateral inhibitory controls. Specifically, a 2-cm diameter site on the forearm of 20 participants was exposed to UVB at twice the minimum erythema dose. 48 h later mechanical and thermal sensitivity had increased at the UVB-treated site, indicating primary hyperalgesia. In addition, sensitivity to blunt pressure had increased in the ipsilateral forehead, implying activation of an ipsilateral supra-spinal pro-nociceptive mechanism. Despite this, the area under the curve of the ipsilateral nociceptive blink reflex decreased when the UVB-treated site was heated to induce moderate pain. Together, these findings suggest that the UVB treatment sensitized primary nociceptive afferents and generated an ipsilateral supra-spinal pro-nociceptive mechanism. In addition, sensitization to heat induced by the UVB treatment strengthened an ipsilateral anti-nociceptive process elicited by heat-pain. Infrequent but enduring discharge of sensitized primary nociceptive afferents, driven by inflammation after UVB exposure, might initiate a lateralized supra-spinal pro-nociceptive influence that heightens awareness of impending harm on the sensitized side of the body. In addition, a lateralized anti-nociceptive response triggered by an intense barrage of nociceptive signals may help to differentiate stronger from weaker sources of pain.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00221-018-5255-x
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