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Anaesthetisation of prefrontal cortex and response to noxious stimulation


REPORTS indicate that responses to pain may be modified by damage to the frontal lobes (see refs 1 and 2). Nevertheless, neither the nature of the change nor the degree to which any effect of damage is localised anatomically has been firmly established. I have systematically examined the function of the prefrontal cortex in response to an aversive stimulus in the rat. Small quantities of a short-acting anaesthetic, procaine hydrochloride, were injected to block directly the neural function of specific areas within the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex in the rat occupies both a lateral region, the dorsal bank of the rhinal sulcus, and a medial region, the pregenual medial wall of the hemisphere3. In the rat, the prefrontal cortex is involved in brain-stimulation reward4. I suggest that, in addition, the prefrontal cortex acts to limit the response to painful stimulation, and that this anti-nociceptive function is localised in or near the sulcal region.

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  1. 1

    Fulton, J. F., Frontal Lobotomy and Affective Behaviour (Chapman and Hall, London, 1951).

  2. 2

    Melzack, R., Puzzle of Pain (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973).

  3. 3

    Leonard, C. M., Brain Res., 12, 321–343 (1969).

  4. 4

    Rolls, E. T., and Cooper, S. J., Brain Res., 60, 351–368 (1973); Physiol. Behav., 12, 563–571 (1974); Expl Neurol., 42, 687–699 (1974).

  5. 5

    Evans, W. O., Psychopharmacologia, 2, 318–325 (1961).

  6. 6

    König, J. F. R., and Klippel, R. A., Rat Brain (Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 1963).

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