Development and Characterization of An Injury-free Model of Functional Pain in Rats by Exposure to Red Light

Rajesh Khanna, Amol Patwardhan, Xiaofang Yang, Wennan Li, Song Cai, Yingshi Ji, Lindsey A. Chew, Angie Dorame, Shreya S. Bellampalli, Ryan W. Schmoll, Janalee Gordon, Aubin Moutal, Todd W. Vanderah, Frank Porreca, Mohab M. Ibrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We report the development and characterization of a novel, injury-free rat model in which nociceptive sensitization after red light is observed in multiple body areas reminiscent of widespread pain in functional pain syndromes. Rats were exposed to red light-emitting diodes (RLED) (LEDs, 660 nm) at an intensity of 50 Lux for 8 hours daily for 5 days resulting in time- and dose-dependent thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in both male and female rats. Females showed an earlier onset of mechanical allodynia than males. The pronociceptive effects of RLED were mediated through the visual system. RLED-induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia were reversed with medications commonly used for widespread pain, including gabapentin, tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Acetaminophen failed to reverse the RLED induced hypersensitivity. The hyperalgesic effects of RLED were blocked when bicuculline, a gamma-aminobutyric acid-A receptor antagonist, was administered into the rostral ventromedial medulla, suggesting a role for increased descending facilitation in the pain pathway. Key experiments were subjected to a replication study with randomization, investigator blinding, inclusion of all data, and high levels of statistical rigor. RLED-induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia without injury offers a novel injury-free rodent model useful for the study of functional pain syndromes with widespread pain. RLED exposure also emphasizes the different biological effects of different colors of light exposure. Perspective: This study demonstrates the effect of light exposure on nociceptive thresholds. These biological effects of red LED add evidence to the emerging understanding of the biological effects of light of different colors in animals and humans. Understanding the underlying biology of red light-induced widespread pain may offer insights into functional pain states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1306
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Functional pain syndromes
  • diffuse hypersensitivity
  • injury free
  • red light-emitting diode
  • widespread pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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