Characterization of bilateral trigeminal constriction injury using an operant facial pain assay

Neuroscience. 2012 Nov 8:224:294-306. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.08.015. Epub 2012 Aug 19.


In order to better understand and treat neuropathic pain, scientific study must use methods that can assess pain processing at the cortical level where pain is truly perceived. Operant behavior paradigms can accomplish this. We used an operant task to evaluate changes following chronic constriction injury to the trigeminal nerves. We also relate these behavioral changes to immunohistochemistry of transient receptor potential channels vanilloid 1 and melastatin 8 (TRPV1 and TRPM8) in the trigeminal ganglia. Following nerve injury, successful performance of the operant task was reduced and aversive behaviors were observed with 10 and 37 °C stimulation, indicating cold allodynia and mechanical allodynia respectively. In contrast, while aversive behaviors were observed with 48 °C stimulation, successful performance of the operant task was not substantially hindered following injury. These behavioral changes were accompanied by an increase in TRPV1 positive cells and an increased intensity of TRPM8 staining at 2 weeks post-injury, when cold allodynia is maximal. These findings suggest that the incorporation of operant behavioral assessment in the study of pain may provide insight into the relationship among peripheral changes, motivational drive, and pain. Understanding this relationship will allow us to better treat and prevent chronic neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Facial Pain / etiology
  • Facial Pain / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Neuralgia / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • TRPV Cation Channels / metabolism
  • Trigeminal Nerve Injuries / complications
  • Trigeminal Nerve Injuries / metabolism*


  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Trpv1 protein, rat