The Antinociceptive Effect of Transcranial Electrostimulation with Combined Direct and Alternating Current in Freely Moving Rats

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Transcranial electrostimulation (TES) has been reported to elicit significant analgesia, allowing a substantial reduction of intraoperative opioids. Acceptance of TES into clinical practice is hampered by lack of controlled clinical trials and inconclusive animal data regarding the TES antinociceptive action. This inconclusive data may be explained, in part, by failure in rat experiments to simulate the variables used in humans when TES electrodes are positioned on the skin. In this study we validated the TES antinociceptive effect in a novel animal model of cutaneously administered TES, when the stimulating conditions mimic the ones used in clinical practice. The antinociceptive effect was assessed by measuring nociceptive thresholds in the tail-flick and hot-plate latency tests in awake, unrestrained male rats. Data were analyzed by analysis of variance and mixed-effects population modeling. The administration of TES at 2.25 mA produced an almost immediate, sustained, frequency-dependent (40–60 Hz) antinociceptive effect, reaching approximately 50% of the maximal possible value. We conclude that an antinociceptive effect of cutaneously administered TES can be demonstrated in the rat. Some characteristics of the effect suggest an important role of the sensory nerves of the rat’s scalp in mediating the TES antinociceptive response.

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