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J Neurophysiol. 1989 Oct;62(4):854-63.

A comparative study of the changes in receptive-field properties of multireceptive and nocireceptive rat dorsal horn neurons following noxious mechanical stimulation.

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Department of Physiology, University of Bristol Medical School, United Kingdom.


1. Single-unit electrical activity has been recorded from 42 dorsal horn neurons in the sacral segments of the rat's spinal cord. The sample consisted of 20 multireceptive (class 2) cells with both A- and C-fiber inputs and 22 nocireceptive (class 3) cells. All neurons had cutaneous receptive fields (RFs) on the tail. 2. The RF sizes of the cells and their response thresholds to mechanical stimulation of the skin were determined before and after each of a series of 2-min noxious mechanical stimuli. Up to five such stimuli were delivered at intervals ranging from 10 to 60 min. In most cases, only one cell per animal was tested. 3. The majority of neurons were tested in barbiturate-anesthetized animals. However, to test whether or not this anesthetic influenced the results obtained, experiments were also performed in halothane-anesthetized and decerebrate-spinal preparations. The results from these experiments are considered separately. 4. All of the neurons responded vigorously to the first noxious pinch stimulus and all but one to the rest of the stimuli in the series. The responses of the neurons varied from stimulus to stimulus, but there were no detectable trends in the two groups of cells. 5. The RFs of the class 2 cells showed large increases (624.3 +/- 175.8 mm2, mean +/- SE) after the application of the pinch stimuli. The RFs of the class 3 neurons, which were initially smaller than those of the class 2 cells, either did not increase in size or showed very small increases after the pinch stimuli (38.3 +/- 11.95 mm2, mean +/- SE). 6. Some cells in both groups (6/10 class 2 cells and 7/16 class 3 cells) showed a decrease in mechanical threshold as a result of the noxious mechanical stimulus, but none of the class 3 cells' thresholds dropped below 20 mN into the low-threshold range. 7. The results obtained in the halothane-anesthetized and decerebrate-spinal animals were very similar to those seen in the barbiturate-anesthetized experiments, with the exception that in the decerebrate-spinal animals, the RFs of the class 2 cells were initially larger and showed only small increases.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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