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Alterations in prefrontal-limbic functional activation and connectivity in chronic stress-induced visceral hyperalgesia.

  • Author(s): Wang, Zhuo
  • Ocampo, Marco A
  • Pang, Raina D
  • Bota, Mihail
  • Bradesi, Sylvie
  • Mayer, Emeran A
  • Holschneider, Daniel P
  • et al.
Abstract

Repeated water avoidance stress (WAS) induces sustained visceral hyperalgesia (VH) in rats measured as enhanced visceromotor response to colorectal distension (CRD). This model incorporates two characteristic features of human irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), VH and a prominent role of stress in the onset and exacerbation of IBS symptoms. Little is known regarding central mechanisms underlying the stress-induced VH. Here, we applied an autoradiographic perfusion method to map regional and network-level neural correlates of VH. Adult male rats were exposed to WAS or sham treatment for 1 hour/day for 10 days. The visceromotor response was measured before and after the treatment. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) mapping was performed by intravenous injection of radiotracer ([(14)C]-iodoantipyrine) while the rat was receiving a 60-mmHg CRD or no distension. Regional CBF-related tissue radioactivity was quantified in autoradiographic images of brain slices and analyzed in 3-dimensionally reconstructed brains with statistical parametric mapping. Compared to sham rats, stressed rats showed VH in association with greater CRD-evoked activation in the insular cortex, amygdala, and hypothalamus, but reduced activation in the prelimbic area (PrL) of prefrontal cortex. We constrained results of seed correlation analysis by known structural connectivity of the PrL to generate structurally linked functional connectivity (SLFC) of the PrL. Dramatic differences in the SLFC of PrL were noted between stressed and sham rats under distension. In particular, sham rats showed negative correlation between the PrL and amygdala, which was absent in stressed rats. The altered pattern of functional brain activation is in general agreement with that observed in IBS patients in human brain imaging studies, providing further support for the face and construct validity of the WAS model for IBS. The absence of prefrontal cortex-amygdala anticorrelation in stressed rats is consistent with the notion that impaired corticolimbic modulation acts as a central mechanism underlying stress-induced VH.

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