Early exposure to environmental enrichment protects male rats against neuropathic pain development after nerve injury

Because environmental elements modify chronic pain development and endogenous mechanisms of pain control are still a great therapeutic source, we investigated the effects of an early exposure to environmental enrichment (EE) in a translational model of neuropathic pain. Young male rats born and bred in an enriched environment, which did not count on running wheel, underwent chronic constriction injury (CCI) of sciatic nerve. EE abolished neuropathic pain behavior 14?days after CCI. Opioid receptors' antagonism reversed EE-analgesic effect. ß-endorphin and met-enkephalin serum levels were increased only in EE-CCI group. Blockade of glucocorticoid receptors did not alter EE-analgesic effect, although corticosterone circulating levels were increased in EE animals. In the spinal cord, EE controlled CCI-induced serotonin increase. In DRG, EE blunted the expression of ATF-3 after CCI. Surprisingly, EE-CCI group showed a remarkable preservation of sciatic nerve fibers compared to NE-CCI group. This work demonstrated global effects induced by an EE protocol that explain, in part, the protective role of EE upon chronic noxious stimulation, reinforcing the importance of endogenous mechanisms in the prevention of chronic pain development.
Keywords
Environmental enrichment;  Chronic neuropathic pain;  Nerve injury;  Endogenous opioids;  Corticosterone;  Serotonin;  Wallerian degeneration

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Kimura LF, Sant´Anna MBM, Zambelli VO, Giardini AC, Jared SGS, Antoniazzi MM, et al. Early exposure to environmental enrichment protects male rats against neuropathic pain development after nerve injury. Exp. Neurol.. 2020 June;332:113390. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2020.113390.
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