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Psychophysics and Nociceptors 

Psychophysics and Nociceptors
Chapter:
Psychophysics and Nociceptors
Author(s):

Kenneth L. Casey

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190880231.003.0007
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date: 31 March 2020

The sensory and affective components of pain (stimulus intensity, unpleasantness) can be measured in the laboratory (psychophysics) and estimated in the clinic. Pain intensity increases with the neuroelectrical activity of individual human nociceptive nerve fibers (psychophysical neuronography) and as higher threshold nociceptors are recruited into activity. The fibers innervating nociceptors are comparatively thin and have low impulse conduction velocities, but this is also true of many non-nociceptors. As a group, nociceptors vary in response threshold, impulse (action potential) conduction velocity, embryonic history, biochemistry, and type of exciting stimulus (thermal, mechanical, or chemical). Polymodal nociceptors respond to more than one type of stimulus, others respond to one type only, and some respond primarily to one or more of the many chemical components in inflamed tissue. Nociceptive fibers may release biochemicals that further increase their responsiveness (peripheral sensitization). The physiological heterogeneity of nociceptors offers multiple treatment opportunities for, and resistance to, treatment.

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