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Keywords:

  • multichannel recording;
  • neuropathy;
  • pain;
  • rat

Abstract

Several authors have shown that the hippocampus responds to painful stimulation and suggested that prolonged painful conditions could lead to abnormal hippocampal functioning. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether the induction of persistent peripheral neuropathic pain would affect basic hippocampal processing such as the spatial encoding performed by CA1 place cells. These place cells fire preferentially in a certain spatial position in the environment, and this spatial mapping remains stable across multiple experimental sessions even when the animal is removed from the testing environment. To address the effect of prolonged pain on the stability of place cell encoding, we chronically implanted arrays of electrodes in the CA1 hippocampal region of adult rats and recorded the multichannel neuronal activity during a simple food-reinforced alternation task in a U-shaped runway. The activity of place cells was followed over a 3-week period before and after the establishment of an animal model of neuropathy, spared nerve injury. Our results show that the nerve injury increased the number of place fields encoded per cell and the mapping size of the place fields. In addition, there was an increase in in-field coherence while the amount of spatial information content that a single spike conveyed about the animal location decreased over time. Other measures of spatial tuning (in-field firing rate, firing peak and number of spikes) were unchanged between the experimental groups. These results demonstrate that the functioning of spatial place cells is altered during neuropathic pain conditions.