Researchers from Northwestern Medicine have discovered a new treatment strategy that may eventually help patients eliminate their chronic pain by restoring certain regions of the brain. The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The new strategy consists of two approved drugs: L-dopa, a Parkinson’s drug, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). In rodents with chronic pain, this combination targeted brain circuits in the nucleus accumbens and eradicated chronic pain behavior.
“The key is administering the drugs together and shortly after an injury,” study authors reported.
In the study, neurons responsible for negative emotions became hyperexcitable and more strongly connected with other regions linked to negative feelings within days after an injury that triggers chronic pain behavior. The change was triggered by a drop in the neurotransmitter dopamine.
When study authors administered the L-dopa and NSAID combination, the changes in the brain were reversed and the chronic pain behavior had ceased. When rats with chronic pain were also given pramipexole, which activates dopamine receptors, their pain-like behavior also decreased.
Study findings suggest supplementing anti-inflammatory agents with a drug that activates dopamine receptors or raises dopamine levels to better treat chronic pain and/or prevent the transition to chronic pain.
For more information visit northwestern.edu.