In the last few years, there has been a great increase in our understanding of pain mechanisms. Given the complexity of the mechanisms involved in pain modulation, it is surprising that the pharmacological control of pain through the application of relatively simple analgesics can be effective. Nevertheless, the application of single analgesics is not always effective in diverse painful conditions such as chronic pain syndromes. In these circumstances, we can take advantage of the complexity of pain regulation and try to identify new targets in these intricate processes. It is becoming clear that the combination of different mechanisms, which improves efficacy with reduced toxicity, is necessary for the reliable pharmacotherapy of pain, and is at the forefront in the search for better analgesics. Serotonin is involved at multiple levels in the regulation of nociception. In particular, the raphe nuclei may play a crucial role in integrating the nociceptive and affective information through descending projections to the spinal cord and ascending projections to the forebrain. In these nuclei, 5-HT1A receptors function as somatodendritic autoreceptors controlling the release of serotonin in terminal areas. Different studies have shown that, by preventing this inhibitory control of serotonin release, it is possible to enhance the analgesic effect of drugs that increase serotonin levels (i.e. antidepressants, opiates, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) by facilitating descending, and also ascending, pathways involved in pain modulation. Therefore, 5-HT1A receptors may be used as a new target in the search for new pharmacological approaches in the augmentation of analgesia.
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