Longitudinal resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging in a mouse model of metastatic bone cancer reveals distinct functional reorganizations along a developing chronic pain state

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Functional neuroimaging has emerged as attractive option for characterizing pain states complementing behavioral readouts or clinical assessment. In particular, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) enables monitoring of functional adaptations across the brain, for example, in response to chronic nociceptive input. We have used rs-fMRI in a mouse model of chronic pain from breast cancer–derived tibial bone metastases to identify pain-induced alterations in functional connectivity. Combined assessment of behavioral readouts allowed for defining a trajectory as model function for extracting pain‐specific functional connectivity changes from the fMRI data reflective of a chronic pain state. Cingulate and prefrontal cortices as well as the ventral striatum were identified as predominantly affected regions, in line with findings from clinical and preclinical studies. Inhibition of the peripheral bone remodeling processes by antiosteolytic therapy led to a reduction of pain-induced network alterations, emphasizing the specificity of the functional readouts for a developing chronic pain state.

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