Dissociation of nociceptive modulation of a human jaw reflex from the influence of stress

Andrew G. Mason, Hilbert W. Van der Glas, Brendan J. J. Scott, Samuel W. Cadden

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    In human beings, inhibitory jaw reflexes can be depressed by painful stimulation of remote parts of the body. Since similar effects can be produced by the stress of anticipating pain, we wished to investigate whether the effects of remote painful stimuli are dependent on stress. EMG recordings were made from a masseter muscle while subjects maintained activity in the muscle at ~12.5% of maximum using visual feedback. The protocols involved three sequences: (1) “standard controls” in which reflexes were evoked by electrical test stimuli applied to the upper lip; (2) “standard conditioning” in which painful electrical conditioning stimuli were applied over the sural nerve 100 ms before the test stimuli; (3) “random sequences” in which test-only and conditioning-test combinations were employed in a double-blind, random, order. Data are presented as means ± SEMs. In the standard controls, the stimuli evoked clear inhibitory reflexes (latency 37 ± 1.3 ms, duration 62 ± 5.6 ms; n = 10) in all the subjects. During standard conditioning, the reflex magnitude was reduced significantly (by 50.0 ± 8.5%, P = 0.0002, one-sample t-test). When the test-only and conditioning-test responses were extracted from the random sequences, there was also a significant reduction in the reflex magnitude following conditioning (by 34.6 ± 5.5%, P = 0.0002, one-sample t-test) albeit less so than between the standard sequences (P = 0.03, paired t-test). A second series of experiments suggested that these lesser effects during the random sequences were not substantially due to any loss of temporal summation of the conditioning mechanisms. The evidence for this was that application of pairs of conditioning stimuli did not produce a significantly greater effect than single conditioning stimuli within a random sequence (39.9 ± 9.6% as opposed to 32.7 ± 9.1% reductions in the reflex, P = 0.117, paired t-test). Therefore since any stress in the random sequences would not have been “tied” to the conditioned responses alone, the effects of remote painful stimuli on this inhibitory jaw reflex cannot be entirely secondary to stress.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)81-91
    Number of pages11
    JournalExperimental Brain Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Nociception
    • Jaw
    • Reflex
    • Stress
    • Modulation


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