Identification Of Brain Areas Could Help Eliminate Side Effects Of Pain Medication

May 08, 1998

HERSHEY, Pa. --- Researchers at Penn State's College of Medicine have identified a set of neurons in the brain that may contribute to some of the undesirable side effects of pain medication.

"Opioids such as morphine and morphine-like drugs still comprise the major tool for the clinical management of pain even though the drugs can have some very serious side effects," explains Ralph Lydic, Ph.D., professor of anesthesia. "This discovery means we have specifically targeted an area in the brain and a molecule that causes side effects from pain medication. We want to try and eliminate these side effects of pain medication by building another molecule to tag onto the opioid molecule. This way the opioid could block the pain, and this new molecule could prevent the side effects."

Specifically, Lydic and his team have discovered that this set of neurons may account for morphine's ability to decrease brain production of acetylcholine, a chemical known to be essential for normal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Often after surgery, patients have disrupted REM sleep because of pain medication. Lydic explains that REM sleep is the dreaming phase of sleep and is essential for feeling rested. Everyone has REM sleep each night, even if we do not remember our dreams. REM sleep occurs about every 90 minutes and lasts for about 20 minutes.

"We think this is a very exciting discovery. We are trying to identify specific cells in the brain where we know brain-produced chemicals have been altered because of the pain medication administered," explains Lydic. Other common side effects from pain medications can include respiratory depression, itching, constipation, urinary retention and addiction.

The Penn State researcher says the team is trying to understand brain mechanisms that regulate consciousness as they try to improve pain control and anesthesia safety. He adds, "The discovery of anesthesia is only about 150 years old, and it is important to remember that for no anesthetic or opioid do we know exactly how these drugs work to eliminate wakefulness and block the perception of pain."

Steve Mortazavi, M.D., an anesthesia resident working with Lydic, presented the work titled "Morphine Sulfate Inhibits Acetylcholine (Ach) Release in Pontine Reticular Regions Modulating Arousal, Breathing, and Pain," this week at the annual Association of University Anesthesiologists meeting in San Francisco. Other colleagues who worked on this project include Janel Thompson, and Helen Baghdoyan, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesia and pharmacology.

This work is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and by the Department of Anesthesia at Penn State's College of Medicine.
-end-


Penn State

Related Neurons Articles from Brightsurf:

Paying attention to the neurons behind our alertness
The neurons of layer 6 - the deepest layer of the cortex - were examined by researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University to uncover how they react to sensory stimulation in different behavioral states.

Trying to listen to the signal from neurons
Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a coaxial cable-inspired needle-electrode.

A mechanical way to stimulate neurons
Magnetic nanodiscs can be activated by an external magnetic field, providing a research tool for studying neural responses.

Extraordinary regeneration of neurons in zebrafish
Biologists from the University of Bayreuth have discovered a uniquely rapid form of regeneration in injured neurons and their function in the central nervous system of zebrafish.

Dopamine neurons mull over your options
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have found that dopamine neurons in the brain can represent the decision-making process when making economic choices.

Neurons thrive even when malnourished
When animal, insect or human embryos grow in a malnourished environment, their developing nervous systems get first pick of any available nutrients so that new neurons can be made.

The first 3D map of the heart's neurons
An interdisciplinary research team establishes a new technological pipeline to build a 3D map of the neurons in the heart, revealing foundational insight into their role in heart attacks and other cardiac conditions.

Mapping the neurons of the rat heart in 3D
A team of researchers has developed a virtual 3D heart, digitally showcasing the heart's unique network of neurons for the first time.

How to put neurons into cages
Football-shaped microscale cages have been created using special laser technologies.

A molecule that directs neurons
A research team coordinated by the University of Trento studied a mass of brain cells, the habenula, linked to disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Read More: Neurons News and Neurons Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.