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    Patients with chronic pain usually suffer from cognitive impairment, with memory deterioration being the most common deficit that affects daily functioning and quality of life. The causes for this impairment are not clear despite intensive clinical studies. Few studies have evaluated impaired learning using animal models of persistent pain. In this study, a new trigeminal neuralgia model induced by cobra venom was adopted to explore effects of chronic pain on spatial learning and memory in rats. Controlled animal study. Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Medicine & Critical Care Medicine, Aviation General Hospital of China Medical University. Thirty adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into 2 groups (n = 15): NS control group and cobra venom group, 0.9% sterile saline or cobra venom solution was injected into the sheath of the infraorbital nerve (ION), respectively. The development of trigeminal neuralgia was accessed by changes in free behavioral activity 3 days before the surgery and 3, 7, 12, 20, and 30 days after the surgery to identify whether the model was successful or not. Morris water maze test determined the abilities of spatial learning and memory at the time points before the surgery, and 2 weeks and 5 weeks after the surgery. We also observed the ultrastructure of the ION and medulla oblongata of rats following 8 weeks of chronic trigeminal neuropathic pain. Rats with the cobra venom injection displayed significantly more face grooming and fewer exploratory activities compared to the NS control group or baseline (P < 0.01). Both groups improved their latency to reach the platform with the largest difference on the first day (P < 0.01), but without memory deficits in a probe trial for the second water maze protocol. For the third water maze testing, the rats in the cobra venom group experienced decreased abilities of spatial learning and memory, a longer latency with spatial memory deficits during the probe trial (P < 0.05). At the ultrastructural level, we found changes in the medulla oblongata after cobra venom injection resulting in severe demyelination and loss of axons that might be implicated in the causes of cognitive deficits. Limitations include partial vision loss in the eye on the lesion side of the rats that might be missed and the absence of evaluating the ultrastructural changes in other parts of the brain. The results of this study suggest that trigeminal neuralgia induced by cobra venom in adult rats can impair spatial learning and memory function over time and results in demonstrable changes in the ultrastructure of the medulla oblongata. This new animal model may be useful for future studies on the effect of chronic pain on learning and cognition.


    Zhe Wu, Xiao-Yan Qian, Jian-Xiong An, Cai-Cai Liu, Ming Tian, Doris K Cope, John P Williams. Trigeminal neuralgia induced by cobra venom in the rat leads to deficits in abilities of spatial learning and memory. Pain physician. 2015 Mar-Apr;18(2):E207-16

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    PMID: 25794221

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