Cold hyposensitivity after topical application of capsaicin in humans

Exp Brain Res. 2008 Dec;191(4):447-52. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1535-1. Epub 2008 Aug 16.


Capsaicin activates the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 receptor (TRPV1) on small sensory afferents, and capsaicin is commonly used to elucidate mechanisms of neuropathic pain. This study was performed to describe changes in cold and cold pain perception after topically applied capsaicin. Fourteen healthy subjects were included. Cold detection and cold pain thresholds and the response to suprathreshold cold stimuli were evaluated before and after topical application of capsaicin (200 microl, 50 mg/ml in 70% ethanol solution, 10.2 cm2) for 30 min. The skin temperature was kept between 34 and 35 degrees C. At the site of capsaicin application (the primary area), we found profound cold hypoesthesia and hypoalgesia, while outside the application site (the secondary area) there were no difference in the changes in cold detection and cold pain thresholds and cold-induced pain compared to the control arm. These results suggest a peripheral mediated decrease in cold sensation following TPRV1 receptor activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Afferent Pathways / drug effects
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Capsaicin / administration & dosage
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Perception / drug effects
  • Perception / physiology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reference Values
  • Sensation / drug effects
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / drug effects
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Skin Temperature
  • TRPV Cation Channels / drug effects
  • TRPV Cation Channels / physiology
  • Thermosensing / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 protein, human
  • Capsaicin