Special Issue: Neurobiology of Pain
The consequences of pain in early life: injury-induced plasticity in developing pain pathways
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2014
© 2014 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience published by Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
European Journal of Neuroscience
Special Issue: NEUROBIOLOGY OF PAIN
Volume 39, Issue 3, pages 344–352, February 2014
How to Cite
Schwaller, F. and Fitzgerald, M. (2014), The consequences of pain in early life: injury-induced plasticity in developing pain pathways. European Journal of Neuroscience, 39: 344–352. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12414
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 7 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 4 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Received: 28 AUG 2013
- descending pain control;
- experience dependent-plasticity;
- newborn infant
Pain in infancy influences pain reactivity in later life, but how and why this occurs is poorly understood. Here we review the evidence for developmental plasticity of nociceptive pathways in animal models and discuss the peripheral and central mechanisms that underlie this plasticity. Adults who have experienced neonatal injury display increased pain and injury-induced hyperalgesia in the affected region but mild injury can also induce widespread baseline hyposensitivity across the rest of the body surface, suggesting the involvement of several underlying mechanisms, depending upon the type of early life experience. Peripheral nerve sprouting and dorsal horn central sensitization, disinhibition and neuroimmune priming are discussed in relation to the increased pain and hyperalgesia, while altered descending pain control systems driven, in part, by changes in the stress/HPA axis are discussed in relation to the widespread hypoalgesia. Finally, it is proposed that the endocannabinoid system deserves further attention in the search for mechanisms underlying injury-induced changes in pain processing in infants and children.