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John Wood (University College London) Pain, mechanosensation and sodium channels (Brambell Translational Neuroscience Seminar Series, 26/4/2012).

A talk about pain and analgesia: by identifying signaling mechanisms for pain we can find new drug targets, hopefully the neurons involved will be outside the blood-brain barrier so that the drugs will have fewer side-effects. As always with talks about metabolic systems and pathways I didn’t get much out of it. I learned that the somatosensory pathway has neurons which are pseudo-unipolar, meaning that the axons splits and goes in two directions

I learned that the origin of pain has been controversial with a dispute as to whether it represented by a neuron which always signals signalling beyond a threshold, or the onset of signalling by a neuron whose function it is to detect pain; the latter is now preferred. Finally, the interaction between the somatosensory system and the sympathetic nervous system is, in the view of the speaker, something that is becoming interesting again, classic work from the fifties and sixties should be revisited he suggests.

He introduced his talk, about chronic pain, with Frida Kahlo’s powerful painting The Broken Column.


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