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Pain. 1996 Aug;66(2-3):307-12.

Behavioral analysis of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC): antinociception and escape reactions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Washington State University, Vancouver 98686, USA.


'Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls' or DNIC is the inhibition of multireceptive neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord that results when a noxious stimulus is applied to a region of the body remote from the neuron's excitatory receptive field. Although this phenomenon is well-documented, the behavioral consequences of DNIC are not clear. The present study was undertaken to determine how nocifensor withdrawal reflexes evoked by a noxious stimulus are altered by application of a second noxious stimulus to a distant part of the body. The tail flick or hindpaw withdrawal reflex of lightly anesthetized (0.6-1.0% halothane) rats was measured before, during and after another appendage was placed in water ranging in temperature from 45 to 54 degrees C. When the forepaw or hindpaw was placed in water exceeding 49 degrees C the tail flick reflex to acute noxious radiant heat was inhibited. In contrast, noxious conditioning stimuli, regardless of temperature or location, had no effect on the latency for hindpaw withdrawal evoked by an acute noxious stimulus, but did produce a change in reflex topography from flexion to extension. These results, along with previous research on DNIC, suggest that intense noxious stimuli: (1) inhibit the tail flick reflex via inhibition of multireceptive neurons in the dorsal horn; (2) disinhibit hindpaw extensor motoneurons by inhibiting the activity of multireceptive neurons involved in hindlimb flexion; and (3) reduce pain sensation by inhibiting multireceptive neurons projecting to the brain (see Model in Discussion).

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