Inside information: the unique features of visceral sensation

Mol Interv. 2008 Oct;8(5):242-53. doi: 10.1124/mi.8.5.9.


Most of what is written and believed about pain and nociceptors originates from studies of the "somatic" (non-visceral) sensory system. As a result, the unique features of visceral pain are often overlooked. In the clinic, the management of visceral pain is typically poor, and drugs that are used with some efficacy to treat somatic pain often present unwanted effects on the viscera. For these reasons, a better understanding of visceral sensory neurons-particularly visceral nociceptors-is required. This review provides evidence of functional, morphological, and biochemical differences between visceral and non-visceral afferents, with a focus on potential nociceptive roles, and also considers some of the potential mechanisms of visceral mechanosensation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nociceptors / cytology
  • Nociceptors / metabolism*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Plant Lectins / metabolism
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • TRPV Cation Channels / metabolism
  • Viscera* / innervation
  • Viscera* / physiology
  • Visceral Afferents / anatomy & histology
  • Visceral Afferents / physiology*


  • Griffonia simplicifolia lectins
  • Plant Lectins
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 receptor
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide