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AbstractChronic pain is the most common cause of disability. Progress in research to alleviate pain is hampered by the fact that metrics for studying pain in animal models are controversial. Rodents highly value social interactions, preferring them even over drugs of abuse or other hedonic rewards. Here, I tested the hypothesis that pain will reduce preference for social interaction, thereby offering a novel tool to quantify pain behaviors. After training rats to self-administer social interaction, I found that acute pain causes devaluation of social interaction. This devaluation was specific to social interaction, because after training rats to self-administer food, acute pain elicited no change in valuation for food self-administration. My findings display the importance of social interaction in pain behaviors, and suggest a novel metric for pain studies.
University of Maryland, Baltimore