Social transfer of pain in mice

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Science Advances  19 Oct 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 10, e1600855
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600855

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  • RE: Olfactory cues in social transfer of pain
    • Andrey E Ryabinin, Professor, Oregon Health & Science University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Monique L Smith, Postdoctoral researcher, Stanford University

    Dear Dr. Li,
    Thank you for your interest and high praise of our findings. The rich
    phenomenon of empathy-like behaviors in animals has implications beyond multiple preclinical research areas and helps us understand better our own behaviors.
    We are in complete agreement that empathy, emotional contagion and other contagion-like transfer of behaviors involve various sensory modalities. For example, there is clear previous evidence that social modulation of pain can occur via visual cues (Lanford et al, Science, 2006), whereas vicarious fear conditioning can occur via auditory stimuli in mice (Chen et al, PLoS One, 2009). Our experiments do not argue with this evidence.
    However, we want to emphasize that in our particular study, olfactory cues were completely sufficient for the social transfer of hyperalgesia, as we demonstrate that olfactory cues alone can drive the transfer. We do agree that other cues could be involved, or may also be sufficient, but we argue that they are not necessary. We arrive at this conclusion due to the specifics of how our experiments were conducted. To test the involvement of olfactory cues in the social transfer, we collected small amounts of bedding from the hyperalgesic experimental mice (Room A), put this bedding in a cage with an open top, and then placed this cage on the housing rack in a neighboring room. This neighboring room (Room B) contained individually-housed experimentally-naïve mice. After 24h of exposure to...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Social transfer of pain in mice
    • Jun-Nan Li, Post-doc position, Indiana University School of Medicine

    Dear editors and authors,
    I have read the paper named “Social transfer of pain in mice” published in the journal of Science Advances. The phenomenon described in this manuscript is very interesting and possesses practical significance for investigators who study pain in the world. The study in this manuscript added new evidence that social and environmental cues also affect pain responsiveness in human and animals. As a good example, we now know that visual cues are thought to play an important role in mediating “emotional contagion” for pain behaviors. However, even for visual cues, this communication of pain affect is also direct. Dramatically, authors in this paper reported that mice in totally isolated environment also could exchange information of pain responsiveness. This discovery also can be extended to other research field. For example, animals or human in totally isolated environment also could exchange other information besides pain responsiveness or emotional change and make corresponding behavioral changes.
    For investigators who study pain including us, especially those scientists who carry out their study using pain model, they usually house and test their animals in experimental groups with or near the animals in their respective comparison groups or control, after reading this paper, we need to consider the interference factor and avoid it in our future studies. Even though the study is interesting and has some implications, there is als...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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