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Somatosens Mot Res. 1988;6(1):63-77.

Abnormal impulse discharge in primary afferent axons injured in the peripheral versus the central nervous system.

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Department of Zoology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


Chronic injury to sensory axons in the rat peripheral nerve induces pathophysiologic changes in the axolemma at the cut nerve end, which are reflected in spontaneous ectopic impulse discharge and hyperexcitability to a range of depolarizing stimuli. We asked whether sensory axons injured in the central nervous system (CNS) also respond in this way. Primary afferent axons were severed in the sciatic nerve and, alternatively, in the midcervical or upper lumbar dorsal column (DC). Measurements of abnormal discharge from myelinated afferents showed high levels of spontaneous activity generated at the nerve injury site, especially during the period 3-16 days postoperatively, but comparatively little activity generated at the DC lesion site at any postoperative time. There was a corresponding difference in ectopic hyperexcitability to mechanical and adrenergic stimulation, and to depolarization with topical K+. DC lesion sites were not made more excitable by concurrent transection of the sciatic nerve, or by placing an autologous graft of excised sciatic nerve tissue into the DC defect at the time of initial surgery. Transection sites on dorsal roots L4 and L5 yielded abnormal discharge similar to that of sciatic nerve neuromas, indicating that the relative silence of DC transection sites was related to the CNS environment and not to position with respect to the sensory cell body.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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