Autonomic and somatosensory interactions: physiological and pathophysiological implications.
Painful or tissue damaging stimuli produce complex sensory, vascular, and neuroendocrine responses. These responses are adaptive in the sense that they provide a warning signal (i.e. pain) and prepare the organism to deal with the threat. Responses to painful stimuli do not occur independently of each other and many of the physiological responses to painful stimuli may act to diminish the perception of pain. Experimental findings are reviewed supporting the hypothesis that vascular responses which stimulate baroreceptor afferents engage central pain inhibitory networks. The importance of cardiovascular and somatosensory interaction as they relate to adaptive and maladaptive conditions will be discussed.