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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Chronic pain is a significant public health problem, affecting 20–25% of the global population, and there is a clear need for more specific and effective therapeutics. To achieve this, a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms and molecular machinery driving pain-related diseases is required. The definition of pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience” associated with tissue injury is innately anthropomorphic, the emotional element being difficult to reconcile in nonhuman organisms. Even simple invertebrates are nevertheless capable of nociception, the neural processing of noxious stimuli. With the significant advantages of simpler nervous systems, experimental tractability, and a high level of conservation, they have a major role to play in advancing our understanding. This chapter reviews our current molecular- and circuit-level understanding of nociception in two of the most widely used invertebrate experimental models, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fly Drosophila melanogaster. In particular, it summarizes the molecules, cells, and circuits that contribute to nociception in response to diverse noxious stimuli in these model organisms and the behavioral paradigms that we can harness to study them. The chapter discusses how mechanistic insights gained from these experimental systems can improve our understanding of pain in humans.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, nociception, behavior, sensory transduction

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