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Pharmacologic Modulation of Noxious Stimulus-evoked Brain Activation in Cynomolgus Macaques Observed with Functional Neuroimaging

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Maintaining effective analgesia during invasive procedures performed under general anesthesia is important for minimizing postoperative complications and ensuring satisfactory patient wellbeing and recovery. While patients under deep sedation may demonstrate an apparent lack of response to noxious stimulation, areas of the brain related to pain perception may still be activated. Thus, these patients may still experience pain during invasive procedures. The current study used anesthetized or sedated cynomolgus macaques and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess the activation of the parts of the brain involved in pain perception during the application of peripheral noxious stimuli. Noxious pressure applied to the foot resulted in the bilateral activation of secondary somatosensory cortex (SII) and insular cortex (Ins), which are both involved in pain perception, in macaques under either propofol or pentobarbital sedation. No activation of SII/Ins was observed in macaques treated with either isoflurane or a combination of medetomidine, midazolam, and butorphanol. No movement or other reflexes were observed in response to noxious pressure during stimulation under anesthesia or sedation. The current findings show that despite the lack of visible behavioral symptoms of pain during anesthesia or sedation, brain activation suggests the presence of pain depending on the anesthetic agent used. These data suggest that fMRI could be used to noninvasively assess pain and to confirm the analgesic efficacy of currently used anesthetics. By assessing analgesic efficacy, researchers may refine their experiments, and design protocols that improve analgesia under anesthesia.
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Appeared or available online: November 21, 2019

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