The effect of opioid receptor blockade on the neural processing of thermal stimuli.
Schoell ED., Bingel U., Eippert F., Yacubian J., Christiansen K., Andresen H., May A., Buechel C.
The endogenous opioid system represents one of the principal systems in the modulation of pain. This has been demonstrated in studies of placebo analgesia and stress-induced analgesia, where anti-nociceptive activity triggered by pain itself or by cognitive states is blocked by opioid antagonists. The aim of this study was to characterize the effect of opioid receptor blockade on the physiological processing of painful thermal stimulation in the absence of cognitive manipulation. We therefore measured BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) signal responses and intensity ratings to non-painful and painful thermal stimuli in a double-blind, cross-over design using the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone. On the behavioral level, we observed an increase in intensity ratings under naloxone due mainly to a difference in the non-painful stimuli. On the neural level, painful thermal stimulation was associated with a negative BOLD signal within the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, and this deactivation was abolished by naloxone.