Obesity is a risk factor associated with several pain syndromes. However, the mechanisms underlying the association between obesity and pain are not known. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that obesity enhances neuronal responses to nociceptive stimulation within the trigeminal nucleus caudalis (TNC).


Male and female C57BL/6J mice were fed a high-fat or regular diet from the time of weaning until 20 weeks of age. We then quantified neuronal activation by measuring Fos immunoreactivity within the TNC in response to a facial injection of a low dose of capsaicin (1 μg/10 μL).


We found that 0.01% capsaicin did not significantly increase Fos immunoreactivity in control mice fed a regular diet. In contrast, this low dose of capsaicin caused a 3.3-fold increase in Fos in the TNC in obese mice (p < 0.001).


These results support the hypothesis that diet-induced obesity in mice enhances nociceptive processing within the TNC. Diet-induced obesity may be a useful model for mechanistic studies. Future studies will improve our understanding of how obesity may contribute to trigeminal pain by sensitizing the trigeminal nociceptive system.