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J Physiol. 1987 Apr;385:415-36.

Anterior pretectal stimulation alters the responses of spinal dorsal horn neurones to cutaneous stimulation in the rat.

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Department of Physiology, University College Cardiff.


1. The behavioural effects of stimulating sites in the anterior pretectal nucleus (a.p.t.n.) were studied in unanaesthetized rats; 1-2 weeks later these rats were anaesthetized with Fluothane and the effects of similar electrical stimulation determined on the responses of spinal neurones to cutaneous stimuli. 2. Stimulation of the a.p.t.n. for 15 s with 35 microA r.m.s. sine-wave current inhibited the tail-flick response to noxious heat of unanaesthetized animals for up to 1 h. 3. Stimulation of the same sites in anaesthetized rats inhibited the responses to noxious heat of forty-two multireceptive and two high-threshold neurones located deep in the spinal dorsal horn. 4. The high-threshold responses of seven cells were unaffected or slightly potentiated by pretectal stimulation. These seven cells were all recorded from the dorsal margin of the dorsal horn, were not multireceptive neurones and could be made to discharge only by water above 50 degrees C. 5. The responses of twelve multireceptive cells to low-threshold stimulation were not affected by pretectal stimulation. All these cells were recorded from deep within the dorsal horn. 6. On ten occasions, cells deep in the dorsal horn were identified as projection neurones which were driven antidromically by high-frequency (300 Hz) stimulation of the contralateral anterolateral tract at cervical levels. The high-threshold responses of all these cells were reduced by pretectal stimulation. No cells were driven antidromically by pretectal stimulation. 7. Ipsilateral lesions of the dorsolateral funiculus abolished the inhibitory effects of prectectal stimulation. Lesions of the dorsal columns were without effect. 8. It is concluded that stimulation of the a.p.t.n. inhibits the tail-flick reflex of unanaesthetized rats and inhibits the high-threshold discharge of deep dorsal horn cells to cutaneous stimuli in anaesthetized rats. Cells recorded from the dorsal margin of the dorsal horn are not affected. The inhibition is mediated via the dorsolateral funiculus and affects cells which project rostrally in the contralateral anterolateral funiculus.

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