Date of Graduation

Summer 2011


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Paul Durham


trigeminal nerve, nociception, pain, REM sleep, thermal sensitivity

Subject Categories



Sleep is essential for maintaining normal functioning of the nervous system. Importantly, while sleep deprivation increases the level of pain, the pain resulting from injury, trauma, or infection can cause one to become sleep deprived. In such a scenario, a vicious cycle is established and is thought to contribute to chronic pain states as reported in migraine and temporomandibular joint disorder. Sensitization and activation of trigeminal nerves, which provide sensory innervation to much of the head and face and mediate pain and inflammation, are implicated in the underlying pathology of these diseases. I hypothesized that sleep deprivation would cause sensitization of trigeminal neurons. To test my hypothesis I developed and tested a novel rat holding device to measure the effect of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep deprivation on trigeminal nerve sensitivity by measuring changes in response to thermal stimuli. This device is now commercially available and sold as an accessory to the Plantar Test (Ugo Basile). Using my device, I found that REM sleep deprivation lowered the activation threshold of trigeminal nerves to thermal stimuli. Data from my study provide evidence that REM sleep deprivation may contribute to disease progression by lowering the activation threshold of trigeminal nerves to noxious stimuli.


© Allison Elizabeth Overmyer

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