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The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is activated in both acute and chronic pain. In this Review, we discuss increasing evidence from rodent studies that ACC activation contributes to chronic pain states and describe several forms of synaptic plasticity that may underlie this effect. In particular, one form of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the ACC, which is triggered by the activation of NMDA receptors and expressed by an increase in AMPA-receptor function, sustains the affective component of the pain state. Another form of LTP in the ACC, which is triggered by the activation of kainate receptors and expressed by an increase in glutamate release, may contribute to pain-related anxiety.