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Brain Res. 1985 Aug 5;340(1):115-25.

Functional activity of rat brainstem neurons regenerating axons along peripheral nerve grafts.


To investigate activation and discharge patterns of central nervous system neurons that regenerate lengthy axons along peripheral nerve grafts we inserted a 4 cm long autologous segment of sciatic nerve into the dorsolateral medulla oblongata of adult rats. Two to 6 months after grafting, the distribution of the cells of origin of the regenerating axons in many nuclei of the brainstem was documented by retrograde horseradish peroxidase labelling from the cut end of the grafts. Functional properties of neurons regenerating axons into the grafts were studied by recording from single regenerated fibers teased from the grafts. Conduction velocities of graft fibers ranged from less than 1 m/s to 25 m/s (30 degrees C). Spontaneous centrifugal impulse traffic in the grafts included units firing in bursts synchronously with the respiratory cycle. Activity in other units was either elicited or inhibited by natural or electrical stimulation of the periphery. Most units recorded in the grafts were neither spontaneously active nor responsive to stimulation of primary afferents. We conclude that: there are central nervous system neurons projecting into the grafts that respond to both excitatory and inhibitory transsynaptic influences; at least some of the spontaneous and induced activity recorded from axons in the grafts resembles that known for normal nerve cells in the regions of the brainstem from which axonal growth arises; and it is possible that many central neurons regenerating axons into peripheral nerve grafts have significantly reduced or altered synaptic inputs.

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