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Sucrose and naltrexone prevent increased pain sensitivity and impaired long-term memory induced by repetitive neonatal noxious stimulation: Role of BDNF and beta-endorphin

Journal title
Physiology & behavior
Publication year
Nuseir, K. Q.; Alzoubi, K. H.; Alhusban, A.; Bawaane, A.; Al-Azzani, M.; Khabour, O. F.

Pain in neonates is associated with short and long-term adverse outcomes. Data demonstrated that long-term consequences of untreated pain are linked to the plasticity of the neonate’s brain. Sucrose is effective and safe for reducing painful procedures from single events. However, the mechanism of sucrose-induced analgesia is not fully understood. The role of the opioid system in this analgesia using the opioid receptor antagonist Naltrexone was investigated, plus the long-term effects on learning and memory formation during adulthood. Pain was induced in rat pups via needle pricks of the paws. Sucrose solution and/or naltrexone were administered before the pricks. All treatments started on day one of birth and continued for two weeks. At the end of 8weeks, behavioral studies were conducted to test spatial learning and memory using radial arm water maze (RAWM), and pain threshold via foot-withdrawal response to a hot plate. The hippocampus was dissected; levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and endorphins were assessed using ELISA. Acute repetitive neonatal pain increased pain sensitivity later in life, while naltrexone with sucrose decreased pain sensitivity. Naltrexone and/or sucrose prevented neonatal pain induced impairment of long-term memory, while neonatal pain decreased levels of BDNF in the hippocampus; this decrease was averted by sucrose and naltrexone. Sucrose with naltrexone significantly increased beta-endorphin levels in noxiously stimulated rats. In conclusion, naltrexone and sucrose can reverse increased pain sensitivity and impaired long-term memory induced by acute repetitive neonatal pain probably by normalizing BDNF expression and increasing beta-endorphin levels.

Research abstracts