Altered pain processing after opioid discontinuation

February 12, 2018, Society for Neuroscience
The figure depicts BOLD responses to the non-painful (not shown) and painful phase of ascending thermal stimulation during the baseline session across all participants. Credit: Sprenger et al., JNeurosci (2018)

An imaging study of the brain and spinal cord published in JNeurosci reveals pain processing changes in healthy men after receiving a short-term application of a strong opioid. The research provides a plausible mechanism underlying increased pain sensitivity after discontinuation of opioid medication.

Opioids are known to inhibit pain, but it is increasingly recognized that they can also increase sensitivity to pain in certain situations. Dr. Sprenger and colleagues investigated changes in the brain and the spinal cord after application of the potent opioid remifentanil corresponding to increased sensitivity to heat pain stimuli applied to the forearm of healthy male adults.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging found altered signaling in a network that connects frontal brain regions via the brainstem with the that has a crucial role in regulating pain. Since remifentanil has a very short half-life and was mostly cleared from the blood when the changes occurred, these results cannot be attributed to direct effects of the drug. Instead, they indicate altered pain processing in the central nervous system subsequent to opioid application.

Explore further: Understanding pain exacerbation with opioid use

More information: Altered signaling in the descending pain modulatory system after short-term infusion of the μ-opioid agonist remifentanil, JNeurosci (2018). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2496-17.2018

Related Stories

Understanding pain exacerbation with opioid use

February 5, 2018
A new study published in JNeurosci advances understanding of how the potent opioid analgesic fentanyl can increase pain sensitivity in animals. These findings could inform the development of treatments for chronic pain that ...

Pain relief through distraction -- it's not all in your head

May 17, 2012
Mental distractions make pain easier to take, and those pain-relieving effects aren't just in your head, according to a report published online on May 17 in Current Biology.

Opioid use may lead to suicide in elderly

January 3, 2018
A new study published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests that suicidal ideations and suicide attempts are linked to opioid use and pain sensitivity in the elderly. The recent dramatic increase ...

Long-term opioid use does not increase risk of Alzheimer 's disease

October 24, 2017
Opioid use is not associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, shows a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland. Researchers did not find any risk neither for long-term use nor for higher cumulative ...

Safer opioid drugs could treat pain and save lives

December 5, 2017
Opioid drugs are the most widely prescribed and effective type of pain medication. But they are highly addictive and have some unpleasant and potentially deadly side effects.

Research reveals how brain's opioids modulate responses towards other people's pain

May 30, 2017
Recent results obtained by researchers from Turku PET Centre and Aalto University have revealed how the human brain's opioid system modulates responses to other people's pain.

Recommended for you

Animal study connects fear behavior, rhythmic breathing, brain smell center

April 20, 2018
"Take a deep breath" is the mantra of every anxiety-reducing advice list ever written. And for good reason. There's increasing physiological evidence connecting breathing patterns with the brain regions that control mood ...

Mechanism behind neuron death in motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia discovered

April 20, 2018
Scientists have identified the molecular mechanism that leads to the death of neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or motor neurone disease) and a common form of frontotemporal dementia.

When there's an audience, people's performance improves

April 20, 2018
Often, people think performing in front of others will make them mess up, but a new study led by a Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist found the opposite: being watched makes people do better.

Signaling between neuron types found to instigate morphological changes during early neocortex development

April 20, 2018
A team of researchers from several institutions in Japan has found that developing neocortex neurons in mammals undergo a morphological transition from a multipolar shape to a bipolar shape due at least partially to signaling ...

MRI technique detects spinal cord changes in MS patients

April 20, 2018
A Vanderbilt University Medical Center-led research team has shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect changes in resting-state spinal cord function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Gene variant increases empathy-driven fear in mice

April 20, 2018
Researchers at the Center for Cognition and Sociality, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), have just published as study in Neuron reporting a genetic variant that controls and increases empathy-driven fear in mice. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.