Higher Cortical Facilitation and Serum BDNF Are Associated with Increased Sensitivity to Heat Pain and Reduced Endogenous Pain Inhibition in Healthy Males.

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Although the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been intensively investigated in animal models of chronic pain, its role in human pain processing is less understood.


To study the neurophysiology of BDNF modulation on acute experimental pain, we performed a cross-sectional study.


We recruited 20 healthy male volunteers (19-40 years old) and assessed their serum BDNF levels, quantitative sensory testing, and cortical excitability parameters using transcranial magnetic stimulation.


Linear regression models demonstrated that the BDNF (β = -5.245, P = 0.034) and intracortical facilitation (β = -3.311, P = 0.034) were inversely correlated with heat pain threshold (adjusted R2 = 44.26). The BDNF (β = -3.719, P ≤ 0.001) was also inversely correlated with conditioned pain modulation (adjusted R2 = 56.8).


Our findings indicate that higher serum BDNF and intracortical facilitation of the primary motor cortex are associated with increased sensitivity to heat pain and high serum BDNF with reduced pain inhibition during noxious heterotopic stimulation.

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