Electrical stimulation of the posterior insula induces mechanical analgesia in a rodent model of neuropathic pain by modulating GABAergic signaling and activity in the pain circuitry

The insula has emerged as a critical target for electrical stimulation since it influences pathological pain states. We investigated the effects of repetitive electrical stimulation of the insular cortex (ESI) on mechanical nociception, and general locomotor activity in rats subjected to chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. We also studied neuroplastic changes in central pain areas and the involvement of GABAergic signaling on ESI effects. CCI rats had electrodes implanted in the left agranular posterior insular cortex (pIC), and mechanical sensitivity was evaluated before and after one or five daily consecutive ESIs (15 min each, 60 Hz, 210 μs, 1 V). Five ESIs (repetitive ESI) induced sustained mechanical antinociception from the first to the last behavioral assessment without interfering with locomotor activity. A marked increase in Fos immunoreactivity in pIC and a decrease in the anterior and mid-cingulate cortex, periaqueductal gray and hippocampus were noticed after five ESIs. The intrathecal administration of the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline methiodide reversed the stimulation-induced antinociception after five ESIs. ESI increased GAD65 levels in pIC but did not interfere with GABA, glutamate or glycine levels. No changes in GFAP immunoreactivity were found in this work. Altogether, the results indicate the efficacy of repetitive ESI for the treatment of experimental neuropathic pain and suggest a potential influence of pIC in regulating pain pathways partially through modulating GABAergic signaling.
Keywords
Insular cortex;  deep brain stimulation;  chronic pain;  rats;  GABA

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Alonso-Matielo H, Gonçalves ES., Campos M, Oliveira VR.S., Toniolo EF., Alves AS., et al. Electrical stimulation of the posterior insula induces mechanical analgesia in a rodent model of neuropathic pain by modulating GABAergic signaling and activity in the pain circuitryElectrical stimulation of the posterior insula induces mechanical analgesia in a rodent model of neuropathic pain by modulating GABAergic signaling and activity in the pain circuitry. Brain Res.. 2020 Jan;in press:147237. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2020.147237.
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