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Logo of jphysiolThe Journal of Physiology SiteMembershipSubmissionJ Physiol
J Physiol. Apr 1991; 435: 229–242.
PMCID: PMC1181459

Unresponsive afferent nerve fibres in the sural nerve of the rat.


1. The proportion of primary afferent nerve fibres in a skin nerve of the rat that responded or failed to respond to mechanical or thermal stimulation of the skin in the noxious and non-noxious range was analysed. 2. Activity of afferent nerve fibres was recorded from the dorsal roots. Units projecting into the sural nerve were selected using supramaximal electrical stimulation of the nerve stem. All other hindleg nerves were cut. 3. The receptive fields were searched by carefully examining the hindleg skin with noxious and innocuous mechanical, cooling and warming stimuli. Probing of the intrinsic foot muscles and manipulation of the ankle and toe joints was employed to recruit units projecting to deeper tissues. 4. In a first series of twenty-two experiments, eighty-nine rapidly conducting myelinated A beta units, thirty slowly conducting myelinated A delta units and 101 unmyelinated C units were investigated. Most units were identified as belonging to one of the established classes of cutaneous sensory units and this was also ascertained by a collision test. 5. Two A beta, eight A delta and forty-six C fibres did not respond to any one of the stimuli. Electrical thresholds and conduction velocities of the unresponsive C fibres were not significantly different from those of the units responding to natural stimulation of their receptive fields. In the A delta group unresponsive and high threshold mechanoreceptive units were preferentially found among the units with the slowest conduction velocities. 6. In a second series of seven experiments, one single nerve filament containing responsive and unresponsive C fibres was tested repetitively at 30 min intervals. Twenty unresponsive units and seven units responding to noxious mechanical and/or heat stimuli were studied. Ten of the twenty initially unresponsive units became activated by mechanical and/or heat stimuli after observation times of 30-150 min. Some of these units had mechanical thresholds as low as 64 mN (tested with calibrated von Frey hairs), or thermal thresholds down to 42 degrees C. 7. Two of the ten C units which became responsive in the course of an experiment later lost their responsiveness again. On the other hand, two of the C units which were initially responsive to noxious heat and/or noxious mechanical stimuli became completely unresponsive after repetitive stimulation, whereas one unit initially only responding to noxious heat became responsive to mechanical stimuli, suggesting that mechanical and heat responsiveness may be separately gained or lost by sensory C fibres.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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Selected References

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