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PD Dr. Sigrid Schuh-Hofer

Neurophysiology - Nociception and Pain

Sleep, sleep deprivation and pain are closely intertwined. According to experimental studies, one night of total sleep deprivation is able to induce generalized – mechanical and thermal – pain hypersensitivity. After several days of sleep restriction, even healthy subjects have been shown to develop spontaneous pain.

Several clinical studies underline the hypothesis of sleep deprivation/disruption acting as an independent 'pain aggravating factor'. Regarding the high coincidence of disturbed sleep in both patients with acute and chronic pain, research on the interplay between insomnia and pain is of high clinical relevance.

Current Topics

  • Studies on gender-dependent effects of sleep deprivation on pain sensitivity
  • Pathophysiology of sleep deprivation induced hyperalgesia

    • Role of inflammatory mediators
    • Effect of sleep deprivation on descending pain modulation

  • Effect of sleep deprivation on habituation: psychophysical and electrophysiological correlates
  • Role of sleep(deprivation) in chronobiological pain disorders (like e.g. migraine, cluster headache)

We have established an experimental model to study the effect of sleep deprivation on the nociceptive and non-nociceptive somatosensory system. Using this model in a young, healthy study population, we demonstrated that one night of total sleep deprivation is able to induce generalized – mechanical and thermal – pain hypersensitivity. A subsequent translational research cooperation focused on the effect of selective anti-nociceptive drugs on sleep deprivation induced behavioral changes of rodents to noxious stimuli.

Study results indicate that both inflammation and imbalance of the descending pain modulatory system are involved in the pathophysiology of sleep deprivation induced hyperalgesia. In order to evaluate the role of gender in the pathophysiological interplay between insomnia and pain, we are currently performing a study on gender-dependent effects of sleep deprivation on nociception.

Selection of recent publications

  1. Schuh-Hofer S, Schäfer-Voß S, Treede RD (2016). Schlaf und Schmerz. Akt Neurol. 43: 249-255
  2. Schuh-Hofer S, Baumgärtner U, Treede RD (2015). Effect of sleep deprivation on the electrophysiological signature of habituation to noxious laser stimuli. Eur J Pain. 19: 1197-1209
  3. Wodarski R, Schuh-Hofer S, Yurek DA, Wafford KA, Gilmour G, Treede RD, Kennedy JD (2015). Development and pharmacological characterization of a model of sleep disruption– induced hypersensitivity in the rat. Eur J Pain. 19:554-566
  4. Schuh-Hofer S, Wodarski R, Pfau DB, Caspani O, Magerl W, Kennedy JD, Treede RD (2013). One night of total sleep deprivation promotes a state of generalized hyperalgesia: a surrogate pain model to study the relationship of insomnia and pain. Pain. 154:1613-1621

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