The role of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in pain: a review

Anesth Analg. 2003 Oct;97(4):1108-1116. doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000081061.12235.55.


There is accumulating evidence to implicate the importance of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors to the induction and maintenance of central sensitization during pain states. However, NMDA receptors may also mediate peripheral sensitization and visceral pain. NMDA receptors are composed of NR1, NR2 (A, B, C, and D), and NR3 (A and B) subunits, which determine the functional properties of native NMDA receptors. Among NMDA receptor subtypes, the NR2B subunit-containing receptors appear particularly important for nociception, thus leading to the possibility that NR2B-selective antagonists may be useful in the treatment of chronic pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate