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Contributions of Nociresponsive Area 3a to Normal and Abnormal Somatosensory Perception

Published:September 15, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2018.08.009

      Highlights

      • Anterior subdivision of area 3a subserves nociception and generation of secondary/slow pain.
      • Under extreme conditions area 3a can partially lose inhibition and become hyperactive.
      • Abnormal hyperactivity of nociceptive area 3a likely promotes some pain disorders.
      • Such disorders can be alleviated by permanent or temporary inactivation of area 3a.
      • Alternatively, hyperactive 3a might be treated by restoring its inhibitory mechanisms.

      Abstract

      Traditionally, cytoarchitectonic area 3a of primary somatosensory cortex (SI) has been regarded as a proprioceptive relay to motor cortex. However, neuronal spike-train recordings and optical intrinsic signal imaging, obtained from nonhuman sensorimotor cortex, show that neuronal activity in some of the cortical columns in area 3a can be readily triggered by a C-nociceptor afferent drive. These findings indicate that area 3a is a critical link in cerebral cortical encoding of secondary/slow pain. Also, area 3a contributes to abnormal pain processing in the presence of activity-dependent reversal of gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptor-mediated inhibition. Accordingly, abnormal processing within area 3a may contribute mechanistically to generation of clinical pain conditions.

      Perspective

      Optical imaging and neurophysiological mapping of area 3a of SI has revealed substantial driving from unmyelinated cutaneous nociceptors, complementing input to areas 3b and 1 of SI from myelinated nociceptors and non-nociceptors. These and related findings force a reconsideration of mechanisms for SI processing of pain.

      Key words

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