Progressively impaired descending inhibition and potentiated general trigeminospinal hypersensitivity participate in the worsening, spatial spreading persistence of cutaneous allodynia, upon repeated dural nociception, in rats.
Migraine is a chronic disease with episodic manifestations. In a subgroup, attack frequency increases over time, leading to chronic migraine. One of the most important risk factors for migraine progression is frequency of headache attacks at baseline. Unfortunately, the actual effects of repeated activation of dural nociceptors are poorly known. We investigated the behavioral, anatomical, and electrophysiological changes induced by repeated low- and high-intensity stimulation of meningeal nociceptor by injecting an inflammatory soup in rats. Single high-intensity, but not low-intensity, stimulation produces a reversible cephalic allodynia. Upon repetition, however, low-intensity stimulation, too, induces a reversible cephalic allodynia, and high-intensity, reversible cephalic and extracephalic allodynia. Moreover, cephalic allodynia becomes, in part, persistent upon repeated high-intensity stimulation. Fos expression reveals that a single high-intensity stimulation already leads to widespread, trigeminal, and spinal central sensitization, and that such general central sensitization potentiates upon repetition. Trigeminovascular nociceptive neurons become persistently sensitized and their diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) concomitantly impaired. Thus, compared with single stimulation, repeated dural nociceptor activation specifically leads to: 1) a gradual worsening of cutaneous hypersensitivity and general neuronal hyperexcitability and 2) spreading of cutaneous hypersensitivity superimposed on 3) persistent cephalic cutaneous hypersensitivity and trigeminal central sensitization. Such repetition-induced development of central sensitization and its consequence, cutaneous allodynia, may arise from both the general neuronal hyperexcitability that results from DNIC impairment and hyperexcitability that likely develops in trigeminal nociceptive neurons in response to their repetitive activation. These neuronal changes may in turn elevate the risk for developing chronic migraine.