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Brain Res Bull. 1990 Feb;24(2):257-65.

Mapping the effects of motor cortex stimulation on somatosensory relay neurons in the rat thalamus: direct responses and afferent modulation.

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Anesthesia Research Laboratories, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


Single unit recordings were used to map the spatial distribution of motor (MI) cortical influences on thalamic somatosensory relay nuclei in the rat. A total of 215 microelectrode penetrations were made to record single neurons in tracks through the medial and lateral ventroposterior (VPM and VPL), ventrolateral (VL), reticular (nRt), and posterior (Po) thalamic nuclei. Single units were classified according to their: 1) location within the nuclei, 2) receptive fields, and 3) response to standardized microstimulation in deep layers of the forepaw-forelimb areas of MI cortex. For mapping purposes, only short latency (1-7 msec) excitatory neuronal responses to the MI cortex stimulation were considered. Percentages of recorded thalamic neurons responsive to the MI stimulation varied considerably across nuclei: VL: 42.6%, nRt: 23.0%, VPL: 15.7%, VPM: 9.3%, and Po: 3.9%. Within the VPL, most responsive neurons were found in "border" regions, i.e., areas adjacent to the VL, and (to a lesser extent) the nRt and Po thalamic nuclei. The same parameters of MI cortical stimulation were used in studies of corticofugal modulation of afferent transmission through the VPL thalamus. A condition-test (C-T) paradigm was implemented in which the cortical stimulation (C) was delivered at a range of time intervals before test (T) mechanical vibratory stimulation was applied to digit No. 4 of the contralateral forepaw. The time course of MI cortical effects was analyzed by measuring the averaged evoked unit responses of the thalamic neurons to the T stimuli, and plotting them as a function of C-T intervals from 5-50 msec. Of the 30 VPL neurons tested during MI stimulation, the average response to T stimulation was decreased a mean 43%, with the suppression peaking at about 30 msec after the C stimulus. This suppression was more pronounced in the VPL border areas (-52% in areas adjacent to VL and nRt) than in the VPL center (-25%).

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