• allodynia;
  • chronic pain;
  • hyperalgesia;
  • nerve injury;
  • neuropathy;
  • sleep;
  • social interactions


Neuropathic conditions for which treatment is sought, the so-called chronic pain syndrome, are characterized usually by complex behavioural disturbances as well as pain. In this study we evaluated whether social behavioural and sleep disruptions occurred after nerve injury. Before and after chronic constriction of the sciatic nerve, resident–intruder and sleep–wake cycles, as well as mechanical and thermal allodynia/hyperalgesia, were quantified. Sciatic nerve injury in all animals reduced withdrawal thresholds to tactile and thermal (cold) stimuli. Resident–intruder and sleep–waking behaviours were altered in some but not all animals. One group (30%, ‘persistent change’) had enduring reductions in dominant behaviour to an intruder and decreased slow-wave sleep and increased wakefulness during both light and dark cycles. Another group (25%, ‘recovery’) had a transient reduction in dominant behaviours and decreased slow-wave sleep and increased wakefulness during only the light cycle. In a third group (45%, ‘no effect’) resident–intruder and sleep–waking behaviours remained normal. Our finding that the degree of ‘pain’ as inferred from the allodynia/hyperalgesia was identical in all animals suggests that the alterations to resident–intruder and sleep–wake cycles were independent of the level of sensory disturbance. An absence of correlation between intensity of sensory disturbances and measures of disability (loss of sleep, familial/social problems) is also characteristic of human neuropathic pain. These data indicate that: (i) in a subpopulation of animals sciatic injury results in two of the major complex behavioural changes which are characteristic of neuropathic pain in humans; (ii) testing only for allodynia and hyperalgesia is not sufficient to detect this subpopulation.