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Neuroscience. 1989;30(2):283-95.

Somatic and vagal afferent convergence on solitary tract neurons in cat: electrophysiological characteristics.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City 73190.


Electrophysiological characteristics are described for 67 neurones localized to subnuclei of the solitary tract or the area of the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized, paralysed cats which received vagal and hindlimb sural or peroneal nerve excitation. The peroneal and sural nerves were stimulated in an exposed hindlimb preparation; the ipsilateral vagus was stimulated at the cervical level. Compound action potentials were recorded from all three nerves. Neurons were recorded with extracellular microelectrodes from the brain stem solitary area contralateral to the stimulated somatic nerves. Ninety-one percent of the recorded neurons were spontaneously active. Eighteen percent and 5% of the neurons received only peroneal or sural excitation, respectively, while 59% of the neurons received convergent peroneal and sural excitation. Thirty-nine of the 67 neurons were also tested for vagal input of which 41% responded with excitation. All of the neurons tested for vagal input also received converging excitation from one or both of the somatic nerves. Thirty-one percent of the vagal-excited neurons received converging input from both the peroneal and sural nerves. The combined mean minimal conduction velocity for peroneal and sural input was 31 +/- 1 m/s (mean +/- 1 S.E., range 9-54 m/s). Thirty-six percent of the peroneal and 31% of the sural afferents were Group II fibers. Significant periods of inhibition of spontaneous neuronal spike activity followed peroneal and sural excitation in 43 and 39% of the neurons, respectively. In many neurons, both excitation and inhibition of spike activity could be elicited at stimulus intensities as low as 1.2 times threshold for the lowest threshold fibers in each nerve. Somatic nerve-induced inhibition of spontaneous neuron activity without prior excitation was also observed. These results suggest that neurons of the solitary tract nuclei receive Group II and Group III somatic afferents which converge on neurons also receiving excitatory vagal input. Consequently, somesthetic and kinesthetic as well as visceral receptor activation may directly modulate solitary tract neurons. A possible conclusion is that the nucleus tractus solitarius is the initial central site of mediation of somatosympathetic reflexes. Modulation of the nucleus tractus solitarius by somatic afferents may then adjust sympathetic tone, via modulation of other medullary centers, in visceral and somatic tissues to match somatic metabolic needs.

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