A new study from the United States has claimed that the pain experienced by patients with diabetic neuropathy is due to changes in the brain.
The research using laboratory rats, carried out at Yale and the West Haven Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that changes to the structure of dendritic spines – tiny ridges on the receiving branches of nerve cells in the brain – were linked to the onset of diabetic neuropathy pain. The dendritic spines are thought to store the memory of pain, as they are key to how the brain remembers and learns.
The scientists showed that abnormal dendritic spines were associated with the development and maintenance of the pain, and that medication that interferes with how these spines form could reduce the pain for lab animals. This finding offers hope that a drug that targets abnormal spines could become part of a useful therapy.
Lead author on the study, Andrew Ta, said “How diabetes leads to neuropathic pain is still a mystery. An interesting line of study is based on the idea that neuropathic pain is due to faulty ‘rewiring’ of pain circuitry.”
He added “We reveal that these dendritic spines, first studied in memory circuit processing, also contribute to the sensation of pain in diabetes.”

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