Activation of the dorsal, but not the ventral, hippocampus relieves neuropathic pain in rodents

Xuhong Wei, Maria Virginia Centeno, Wenjie Ren, Anna Maria Borruto, Daniele Procissi, Ting Xu, Rami Jabakhanji, Zuchao Mao, Haram Kim, Yajing Li, Yiyuan Yang, Philipp Gutruf, John A. Rogers, D. James Surmeier, Jelena Radulovic, Xianguo Liu, Marco Martina, Apkar Vania Apkarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence suggests hippocampal impairment under the chronic pain phenotype. However, it is unknown whether neuropathic behaviors are related to dysfunction of the hippocampal circuitry. Here, we enhanced hippocampal activity by pharmacological, optogenetic, and chemogenetic techniques to determine hippocampal influence on neuropathic pain behaviors. We found that excitation of the dorsal (DH), but not the ventral (VH) hippocampus induces analgesia in 2 rodent models of neuropathic pain (SNI and SNL) and in rats and mice. Optogenetic and pharmacological manipulations of DH neurons demonstrated that DH-induced analgesia was mediated by N-Methyl-D-aspartate and μ-opioid receptors. In addition to analgesia, optogenetic stimulation of the DH in SNI mice also resulted in enhanced real-time conditioned place preference for the chamber where the DH was activated, a finding consistent with pain relief. Similar manipulations in the VH were ineffective. Using chemo-functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), where awake resting-state fMRI was combined with viral vector-mediated chemogenetic activation (PSAM/PSEM89s) of DH neurons, we demonstrated changes of functional connectivity between the DH and thalamus and somatosensory regions that tracked the extent of relief from tactile allodynia. Moreover, we examined hippocampal functional connectivity in humans and observe differential reorganization of its anterior and posterior subdivisions between subacute and chronic back pain. Altogether, these results imply that downregulation of the DH circuitry during chronic neuropathic pain aggravates pain-related behaviors. Conversely, activation of the DH reverses pain-related behaviors through local excitatory and opioidergic mechanisms affecting DH functional connectivity. Thus, this study exhibits a novel causal role for the DH but not the VH in controlling neuropathic pain-related behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2865-2880
Number of pages16
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Analgesia
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Hippocampus
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Opioids
  • Wireless optogenetics
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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