Pain Rep, May 2019

Skilled reaching deterioration contralateral to cervical hemicontusion in rats is reversed by pregabalin treatment conditional upon its early administration

Erin L K S Erskine, Brittney D Smaila, Ward Plunet, Jie Liu, Elizabeth E Raffaele, Wolfram Tetzlaff, John L K Kramer, Matt S Ramer


Introduction: Gabapentinoids are first-line treatments for painful traumatic and nontraumatic central nervous system disorders. Evidence from a large human study suggests that early use of gabapentinoids after spinal cord injury improves motor scores. The underlying mechanism is unknown.

Objectives: We sought to examine the effects of early pregabalin (PGB, a gabapentinoid) treatment on performance in a fine motor task (skilled reaching) after cervical hemicontusion. We also asked whether early PGB administration affected PGB responsiveness later on.

Methods: Rats received C4/5 cervical hemicontusions. Injury severities ranged from 80 to 150 kdyn. We monitored evidence of skin irritation (peri-incisional and elsewhere) and quantified food pellet retrieval using the Montoya staircase test. Behaviours were assessed in rats receiving early (for 3 weeks from injury induction) and/or late (resuming or beginning at week 8) PGB treatment in animals with 150-kdyn injuries.

Results: Contralateral skilled reaching waned in control animals with 150-kdyn injuries. This was prevented in animals, which received early PGB as long as treatment continued. Deterioration of skilled reaching was reversed by later (week 8) PGB only in animals that had received early treatment. Ipsilateral reaching impairment was not improved by PGB. Relief of skin irritation verified early PGB efficacy.

Conclusion: Hemicontusive spinal cord injury produces a contralateral motor phenotype evocative of on-going neuropathic pain. Early PGB preserves sensitivity to subsequent PGB treatment, indicating that motor function is impaired by neuropathic pain and can be improved indirectly by early PGB administration. Direct effects of PGB on motor circuitry cannot be excluded but are not supported by our data.

Keywords: Pregabalin; Rats; Skilled reaching; Spinal cord injury; Tonic pain.

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