Pain relief is necessary and essential for dental treatments. Recently, the relationships of pain and emotion were studied, and electrical stimulation applied to the amygdala depressed the nociceptive response in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Thus, the antinociceptive effects of the amygdala are elucidated, but its mechanism is not yet clarified. The present study was performed to investigate whether endogenous opioid system is related to the depression, and the quantitative changes of endogenous opioids induced by electrical stimulation to the amygdala. We investigated immunohistologically c-Fos expression to confirm the activated neurons, as well as the distribution and the amount of endogenous opioids (β-endorphin, enkephalin and dynorphin A) in the brain using male Wistar rats, when electrical stimulation was applied to the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) or noxious stimulation was delivered to the peripheral tissue. c-Fos expression in the ipsilateral ACC was increased by electrical stimulation to the CeA. However, only a small amount of endogenous opioids was observed in the ACC when noxious stimulation or electrical stimulation was applied. In contrast, the amount of dynorphin A in the periaqueductal gray (PAG) was increased by electrical stimulation to the CeA, and the amount of β-endorphin in the PAG was increased by noxious stimulation to the peripheral tissue. The results suggest that dynorphin A in the PAG induced by electrical stimulation to the CeA activate the descending antinociceptive system, and suggest that the nociceptive response in the ACC is depressed indirectly.

Keywords: Amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, β-endorphin, enkephalin, dynorphin A, periaqueductal gray.
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