Regional mu opioid receptor regulation of sensory and affective dimensions of pain

Science. 2001 Jul 13;293(5528):311-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1060952.


The endogenous opioid system is involved in stress responses, in the regulation of the experience of pain, and in the action of analgesic opiate drugs. We examined the function of the opioid system and mu-opioid receptors in the brains of healthy human subjects undergoing sustained pain. Sustained pain induced the regional release of endogenous opioids interacting with mu-opioid receptors in a number of cortical and subcortical brain regions. The activation of the mu-opioid receptor system was associated with reductions in the sensory and affective ratings of the pain experience, with distinct neuroanatomical involvements. These data demonstrate the central role of the mu-opioid receptors and their endogenous ligands in the regulation of sensory and affective components of the pain experience.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Fentanyl / administration & dosage
  • Fentanyl / analogs & derivatives*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • carfentanil
  • Fentanyl