[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acute stress has been shown to increase latencies of nociceptive reflexes, and this effect is considered evidence for stress-induced analgesia. However, tests for nociception that rely on motivated operant escape assess cerebral processing of pain and could be modulated independent of reflex responses. We therefore compared the effects of an acute stressor (restraint) on escape responses and lick/guard reflexes to stimulation of the paws by a thermally regulated floor. Testing sessions included a pre-test exposure to 36 degrees C, followed by a test trial in which either escape from 44 or 36 degrees C or reflex responses to 44 degrees C were observed. Behavioral responses to stress were assessed during a three day period, with baseline testing on day 1, post-stress or control testing on day 2, and evaluation of long-term stress effects on day 3. On day 2, half the animals received 15 min of restraint stress, followed by 15-min pre-test and test trials. Licking and guarding responses to thermal stimulation during 44 degrees C test trials were significantly reduced by restraint stress, confirming previously reported stress effects on nociceptive reflexes. In contrast, learned escape responses to the same thermal stimulus were significantly enhanced after stress. The increase in operant sensitivity suggests that acute restraint, a form of psychological stress, produces hyperalgesia for a level of thermal stimulation that preferentially activates C nociceptors. These results are discussed in relation to studies involving physical or psychological forms of stress, different nociceptive stimuli, and assessment strategies used to evaluate thermal pain sensitivity.
Brain Research 11/2003; 987(2):214-22. · 2.88 Impact Factor