Specialized Neurons Play a Unique Role in Pain

Step Toward Designing New Approaches to Pain Therapy

illustration of hair follicles

CREDIT: JEREMY SWAN AND NICOLE SWAN, NICHD

Understanding basic mechanisms underlying these different types of responses will be an important step toward the rational design of new approaches to pain therapy.

Scientists know more about neurons that detect temperature and touch than they do about those that underlie mechanical pain (anatomical pain related to specific postures or activities). But a recent study, led by investigators at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, combined functional imaging, recordings of electrical activity in the brain, and genetics to see how neurons respond to various stimuli. The researchers identified a class of sensory neurons that can be activated by stimuli as precise as the pulling of a single hair.

Read more about this and other NIH advances in “Research Briefs.”