Send to

Choose Destination
Auton Neurosci. 2000 Oct 30;84(1-2):98-106.

Nervous control of blood flow microkinetics in the infrared organs of pit vipers.

Author information

Department of Anatomy, Yokohama City University School of Medicine, Yokohama-shi, Japan.


The pit organ of pit vipers contains a membrane which serves as an infrared retina, processing infrared information by the degree to which the temperature of trigeminal nerve receptors (terminal nerve masses) is raised. The receptors are arranged in a monolayer array within the pit membrane and irrigated by a capillary network which both supplies energy to the terminal nerve masses and serves as a heat exchange mechanism. This mechanism maintains the receptors at a stable temperature level to increase or decrease their sensitivity and to reduce to a minimum the afterimage effect of a moving stimulus. We used a Doppler laser blood flow meter to measure the local changes in blood flow in response to a point heat source (a small soldering iron) and to direct stimuli (red and infrared lasers). Resection of any one of the trigeminal A-delta fiber trunks innervating the pit membrane abolished blood flow response in the area innervated, but resection of the main trunk between the primary neurons and the medulla left the response intact. In addition to the A-delta fibers the pit membrane contains autonomic and sensory C-fiber innervation, but preganglionic resection of parasympathetic neurons, and chemical blocking of postganglionic fibers with atropine and capsaicin had no influence on the blood flow changes. Therefore, on the basis of the rapid response time and the similarity of the blood flow curves to electrophysiological recordings from the receptors, we surmised that all blood flow changes were due to a vasomotor reaction, modulated by the terminal nerve masses directly, resulting in a change in local heat capacity that cools the stimulated receptors back to a basal temperature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center