Research Papers

Modeling of Nociceptor Transduction in Skin Thermal Pain Sensation

[+] Author and Article Information
F. Xu, T. Wen, K. A. Seffen

Engineering Department, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 1PZ, UK

T. J. Lu1

MOE Key Laboratory of Strength and Vibration, School of Aerospace, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, P.R.C.tjlu@mail.xjtu.edu.cn


Corresponding author.

J Biomech Eng 130(4), 041013 (Jun 11, 2008) (13 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2939370 History: Received June 20, 2007; Revised November 13, 2007; Published June 11, 2008

All biological bodies live in a thermal environment with the human body as no exception, where skin is the interface with protecting function. When the temperature moves out of normal physiological range, skin fails to protect and pain sensation is evocated. Skin thermal pain is one of the most common problems for humans in everyday life as well as in thermal therapeutic treatments. Nocicetors (special receptor for pain) in skin play an important role in this process, converting the energy from external noxious thermal stimulus into electrical energy via nerve impulses. However, the underlying mechanisms of nociceptors are poorly understood and there have been limited efforts to model the transduction process. In this paper, a model of nociceptor transduction in skin thermal pain is developed in order to build direct relationship between stimuli and neural response, which incorporates a skin thermomechanical model for the calculation of temperature, damage and thermal stress at the location of nociceptor and a revised Hodgkin–Huxley form model for frequency modulation. The model qualitatively reproduces measured relationship between spike rate and temperature. With the addition of chemical and mechanical components, the model can reproduce the continuing perception of pain after temperature has returned to normal. The model can also predict differences in nociceptor activity as a function of nociceptor depth in skin tissue.

Copyright © 2008 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 3

(a) Skin structure (101) and (b) corresponding idealized skin model (e.g., for a four-layer skin model (N=4), Layers 1, 2, 3, and 4 correspond to stratum corneum, living epidermis, dermis, and fat layer, respectively)

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Figure 4

(a) Original Hodgkin and Huxley model; (b) revised HH model

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Figure 5

Influence of nociceptor temperature on (a) membrane potential and (b) frequency responses in HH model

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Figure 1

Schematic of the holistic skin thermal pain model

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Figure 2

Response of nociceptor to noxious thermal stimulus (52): (a) heat current; (b) action potential generated by a thermal stimulus

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Figure 9

Influence of stimulus intensity on nociceptor transduction: (a) temperature; (b) membrane voltage variation; (c) frequency response

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Figure 10

Thermomechanical responses at location of nociceptor: (a) temperature; (b) thermal damage degree; (c) thermal stress

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Figure 11

Role of thermal stress and thermal damage: (a) membrane voltage variation; (b) frequency response

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Figure 6

Experimental observations of the responses of C nociceptors in mouse glabrous skin to heat stimuli (38): (a) responses of a single C nociceptor evoked by heat stimuli of 43°C, 45°C, and 51°C (response threshold to heat was 43°C); (b) the relationship between the mean discharge rate and the same stimulus temperatures

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Figure 7

Response of (a) membrane potential and (b) frequency response in revised HH model under different stimulus intensity

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Figure 8

Influence of nociceptor location on transduction: (a) temperature; (b) membrane voltage variation; (c) frequency response



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