"Listening" and "talking" to neurons: implications of immune activation for pain control and increasing the efficacy of opioids

Brain Res Rev. 2007 Nov;56(1):148-69. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2007.06.006. Epub 2007 Jul 13.


It is recently become clear that activated immune cells and immune-like glial cells can dramatically alter neuronal function. By increasing neuronal excitability, these non-neuronal cells are now implicated in the creation and maintenance of pathological pain, such as occurs in response to peripheral nerve injury. Such effects are exerted at multiple sites along the pain pathway, including at peripheral nerves, dorsal root ganglia, and spinal cord. In addition, activated glial cells are now recognized as disrupting the pain suppressive effects of opioid drugs and contributing to opioid tolerance and opioid dependence/withdrawal. While this review focuses on regulation of pain and opioid actions, such immune-neuronal interactions are broad in their implications. Such changes in neuronal function would be expected to occur wherever immune-derived substances come in close contact with neurons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / immunology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Gliosis / immunology
  • Gliosis / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / immunology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / immunology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / immunology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / immunology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology


  • Analgesics, Opioid