Modification of Descending Analgesia in Aging: Critical Role of the Prefrontal Cortex


    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid

Abstract

Objective:Aging has been associated with increases in pain threshold and reductions in tolerance threshold, as well as a deficiency in endogenous pain inhibition. Top-down pain modulation mainly involves the frontal cortex network, which is also one of the most vulnerable brain regions in aging. As the frontal cortex also sustains executive functions, we aimed to determine whether reductions in executive functions subtended by the frontal network are associated with the lack of descending inhibitor control in pain-free elderly participants.Methods:Executive functions were assessed in pain-free elderly participants using neuropsychological tests. Endogenous inhibition of pain was investigated using the paradigm of conditioned pain modulation. We compared pain thresholds before and after the conditioned pain modulation procedure in older and younger participants and in seniors with poor and good performances on executive tests.Results:Younger participants showed a significant inhibitory effect of phasic pain during prolonged pain stimulation. Older participants with good performance on executive tests showed an absence of inhibiting effect, whereas older participants with poor performance showed a facilitating effect, indicating a significant link between cognitive functions and mechanisms of endogenous inhibition of pain.Discussion:These results highlight a significant link between cognitive functions and mechanisms of endogenous inhibition of pain and open new perspectives in investigations of chronic pain in aging.

    loading  Loading Related Articles