Pain increases the rate, frequency, or intensity of some behaviors (eg, withdrawal responses) and suppresses other behaviors (eg, feeding). Our laboratories are developing assays to test analgesic drug candidates using measurements of pain-suppressed rather than pain-elicited behaviors. Such assays may model important aspects of clinical pain and provide a means for distinguishing true analgesics from drugs that produce motor impairment. The present study compared effects of the mu opioid analgesic morphine and the nonanalgesic neuroleptic haloperidol on intraperitoneal acetic acid-induced writhing (a pain-elicited behavior) and suppression of feeding behavior (a pain-suppressed behavior). In feeding studies, C57BL/6J mice were given access to a dish containing 8 mL Ensure(trade mark) liquid food (0-100% in water) during daily sessions (7.5-120 min). Levels of consumption were dependent on both Ensure concentration and session duration. Intraperitoneal injection of acetic acid (0.10-0.56%) produced a time- and concentration-dependent decrease in Ensure consumption. Morphine (1 mg/kg) prevented both acid-induced writhing and acid-induced suppression of feeding, whereas the dopamine antagonist haloperidol inhibited writhing without preventing acid-induced suppression of feeding. The effects of morphine were time-dependent, selective for acid-suppressed feeding, and naltrexone-reversible. These results suggest that assays of pain-suppressed behaviors may complement assays of pain-elicited behaviors in preclinical studies of candidate analgesics.
Perspective: This paper presents a new preclinical strategy for assessing pain and analgesia in mice that is congruent with current methods of pain assessment in the clinic. This strategy may therefore be a useful complement to more traditional procedures for assessing pain and analgesia.