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Spared nerve injury rats exhibit thermal hyperalgesia on an automated operant dynamic thermal escape Task

  • Baliki, Marwan1
  • Calvo, Oscar1
  • Chialvo, Dante R1
  • Apkarian, A Vania1
  • 1 Northwestern University Medical School, Department of Physiology, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA , Chicago
Published Article
Molecular Pain
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
May 26, 2005
DOI: 10.1186/1744-8069-1-18
Springer Nature


Well-established methods are available to measure thermal and mechanical sensitivity in awake behaving rats. However, they require experimenter manipulations and tend to emphasize reflexive behaviors. Here we introduce a new behavioral test, with which we examine thermal sensitivity of rats with neuropathic injury. We contrast thermal hyperalgesia between spared nerve injury and chronic constriction injury rats. This device is a fully automated thermal sensitivity assessment tool designed to emphasize integrated learned responses to thermal painful and non-painful stimuli that are applied dynamically to a surface on which the animal is standing. It documents escape behavior in awake, unrestrained animals to innocuous and noxious heating of the floor where the animal is located. Animals learn to minimize pain by escaping to the opposite non-heated side; escape latency is recorded. On this device, thermal stimulus-response curves showed > 6°C leftward shift in both groups of neuropathic rats. In contrast, when these animals were tested on hotplate the stimulus-response shift was < 2°C. Spared nerve injury rats showed even less evidence for thermal hyperalgesia when thermal sensitivity was tested by measuring paw withdrawal to infrared heating, plantar test. The implications of test dependent magnitude of thermal hyperalgesia are discussed from the viewpoint of the tests used, as well as the animal models studied. It is argued that the dynamic thermal operant task reveals the relevance of the neuropathic injury associated pain-like behavior in relation to the whole organism.

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