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The Neurobiology of Pain: Developmental Aspects

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FITZGERALD, Maria; BEGGS, Simon. The Neurobiology of Pain: Developmental Aspects. Book Review. The Neuroscientist. Neuroscientist 2001; 7; 246

Invasive procedures that would be painful in children and adults are frequently performed on infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. This article discusses sensory responses to these procedures in the immature nervous system and highlights the fact that, in addition to causing distress and delayed recovery, pain in infancy is also a developmental issue. First, the immaturity of sensory processing within the newborn spinal cord leads to lower thresholds for excitation and sensitization, therefore potentially maximizing the central effects of these tissue-damaging inputs. Second, the plasticity of both peripheral and central sensory connections in the neonatal period means that early damage in infancy can lead to prolonged structural and functional alterations in pain pathways that can last into adult life.

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