Morphological and functional reorganization of rat medial prefrontal cortex in neuropathic pain

Alexia E. Metz, Hau Jie Yau, Maria Virginia Centeno, A. Vania Apkarian, Marco Martina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

312 Scopus citations


Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain that results from lesion or dysfunction of the nervous system. Depression and cognitive decline are often coupled to chronic pain, suggesting the involvement of cortical areas associated with higher cognitive functions. We investigated layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons in acute slices of the contralateral medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in the rat spared nerve injury (SNI) model of neuropathic pain and found morphological and functional differences between the mPFC of SNI and sham-operated animals. Basal, but not apical, dendrites of neurons from SNI rats are longer and have more branches than their counterparts in sham-operated animals; spine density is also selectively increased in basal dendrites of neurons from SNI rats; the morphological changes are accompanied by increased contribution to synaptic currents of the NMDA component. Interestingly, the NMDA/AMPA ratio of the synaptic current elicited in mPFC neurons by afferent fiber stimulation shows linear correlation with the rats' tactile threshold in the injured (but not in the contralateral) paw. Our results not only provide evidence that neuropathic pain leads to rearrangement of the mPFC, which may help defining the cellular basis for cognitive impairments associated with chronic pain, but also show pain-associated morphological changes in the cortex at single neuron level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2423-2428
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 17 2009


  • AMPA
  • Dendrite
  • NMDA
  • Spine
  • mPFC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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