Objective: Cognitive impairment, one of the most prevalent complications of trigeminal neuralgia, is troubling for patients and clinicians due to limited therapeutic options. Curcumin shows antinociception and neuroprotection pharmacologically, suggesting that it may have therapeutic effect on this complication. This study aimed to investigate whether curcumin alleviates orofacial allodynia and improves cognitive impairment by regulating hippocampal CA1 region synaptic plasticity in trigeminal neuralgia.

Methods: A mouse model of trigeminal neuralgia was established by partially transecting the infraorbital nerve (pT-ION). Curcumin was administered by gavage twice daily for 14 days. Nociceptive thresholds were measured using the von Frey and acetone test, and the cognitive functions were evaluated using the Morris water maze test. Dendritic spines and synaptic ultrastructures in the hippocampal CA1 area were observed by Golgi staining and transmission electron microscopy.

Results: Curcumin intervention increased the mechanical and cold pain thresholds of models. It decreased the escape latency and distance to the platform and increased the number of platform crossings and dwell time in the target quadrant of models, and improved spatial learning and memory deficits. Furthermore, it partially restored the disorder of the density and proportion of dendritic spines and the abnormal density and structure of synapses in the hippocampal CA1 region of models.

Conclusion: Curcumin alleviates abnormal orofacial pain and cognitive impairment in pT-ION mice by a mechanism that may be related to the synaptic plasticity of hippocampal CA1, suggesting that curcumin is a potential strategy for repairing cognitive dysfunction under long-term neuropathic pain conditions.