, Volume 196, Issue 1, pp 163-172
Date: 07 Apr 2009

Translational nociceptor research as guide to human pain perceptions and pathophysiology

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Abstract

Microneurography is a method for recording single unit action potentials with microelectrodes from the nerves of awake cooperating humans. Although this method is now in use since almost 40 years, its potency has been strengthened by the recent technical developments. A great progress was the discovery that different functional groups of nociceptors are characterized by a distinctly different post-excitatory slowing of their conduction velocities. Microneurography is now powerful enough to analyze the nerve activity pattern of enigmatic sensations such as pruritus. Furthermore, it is the only method providing direct insight in the changes which human nerves undergo with aging. Recently, reliable recordings from patients suffering from painful neuropathies came into reach. It has been shown that different types of neuropathies are characterized by different patterns of abnormal nociceptor functions. Although some of them are characterized by abnormal spontaneous activity in C-nociceptors, others show mainly signs of denervation. Microneurography is, therefore, a tool for translational studies on human nociceptor functions by linking direct animal studies on experimental neuropathies with human diseases.