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Background: Epidemiological studies in patients with neuropathic pain demonstrate a strong association with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety; however, the precipitating pathology between these symptoms remains unclear. To investigate this, we studied the effects of lifelong stress on levels of neuropathic pain-like behavior and conversely, the effects of chronic neuropathic injury on anxiety-like status in male and female mice. In addition, we assayed this link in painful and painless diabetic peripheral neuropathy patients. Methods: Male and female mice were subject to ongoing life-stress or control living conditions. Baseline sensitivity and anxiety tests were measured followed by spared nerve injury (SNI) to the sciatic nerve. Subsequent sensory testing occurred until 3 weeks after SNI followed by anxiety tests between 4 and 6 weeks after SNI. Results: Levels of tactile or cold allodynia did not differ between adult mice subject to lifelong chronic stress, relative to nonstressed controls, for at least 3 weeks after SNI. By contrast, longer-term neuropathic mice of both sexes displayed pronounced anxiety-like behavior, regardless of exposure to stress. If sex differences were present, females usually exhibited more pronounced anxiety-like behavior. These ongoing anxiety behaviors were corroborated with plasma corticosterone levels in distinct animal groups. In addition, data from patients with painful and nonpainful diabetic neuropathy showed a clear relationship between ongoing pain and anxiety, with females generally more affected than males. Discussion: Taken together, these data demonstrate a strong link between chronic neuropathic pain and chronic anxiety, with the driver of this comorbidity being neuropathic pain as opposed to on-going stress.

Original publication




Journal article


Pain Rep

Publication Date





Anxiety, Neuropathy, Pain, Sex differences, Spared nerve injury, Stress