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Experimental and Clinical Applications of Quantitative Sensory Testing Applied to Skin, Muscles and Viscera

  • Lars Arendt-Nielsen
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Dr. Lars Arendt-Nielsen, Department of Health Science and Technology, Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, Fredrik Bajers Vej 7, D3, DK-9220 Aalborg, Denmark.
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Sciences and Technology, Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
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  • David Yarnitsky
    Affiliations
    Department of Neurology, Rambam Medical Center, Technion Faculty of Medicine, Haifa, Israel
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      Abstract

      Quantification of the human painful sensory experience is an essential step in the translation of knowledge from animal nociception to human pain. Translational models for assessment of pain are very important, as such models can be used in: 1) basic mechanistic studies in healthy volunteers; 2) clinical studies for diagnostic and monitoring purposes; 3) pharmacological studies to evaluate analgesic efficacy of new and existing compounds. Quantitative pain assessment, or quantitative sensory testing (QST), provides psychophysical methods that systematically document alterations and reorganization in nervous system function and, in particular, the nociceptive system. QST is defined as the determination of thresholds or stimulus response curves for sensory processing under normal and pathophysiological conditions. The modern concept of advanced QST for experimental pain assessment is a multimodality, multitissue approach where different pain modalities (thermal, mechanical, electrical, and chemical) are applied to different tissues (skin, muscles, and viscera) and the responses are assessed by psychophysical methods (thresholds and stimulus-response functions). Many new and advanced technologies have been developed to help relieve evoked, standardized, and painful reactions. Assessing pain has become a question of solving a multi-input, multi-output problem, with the solution providing the possibility of teasing out which pain pathways and mechanisms are involved, impaired, or affected.

      Perspective

      Many methodologies have been developed for quantitative assessment of pain perception and involved mechanisms. This paper describes the background for the different methods, the use in basic pain experiments on healthy volunteers, how they can be applied in drug profiling, and the applications in clinical practice.

      Key words

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