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J Comp Neurol. 1981 Jun 20;199(2):277-91.

Effect of peripheral nerve injury on receptive fields of cells in the cat spinal cord.


When the sciatic and saphenous nerves are cut and ligated in adult cats, the immediate effect is the production of a completely anesthetic foot and a region in medial lumbar dorsal horn where almost all cells have lost their natural receptive fields (RFs). Beginning at about 1 week and maturing by 4 weeks, some 40% of cells in the medial dorsal horn gain a novel RF on proximal skin, that is, upper and lower leg, thigh, lower back, or perineum. This new RF is supplied by intact proximal nerves and not by sciatic and saphenous nerve fibers that sprouted in the periphery. During the period of switching of RFs from distal to proximal skin there was no gross atrophy of dorsal horn grey matter and no Fink-Heimer stainable degeneration of central arbors and terminals of peripherally axotomized afferents. In intact animals medial dorsal horn cells showed no sign of response to mechanical stimulation of proximal skin. RFs of some of the cells had spontaneous variations in size and sensitivity, but these were not nearly sufficient to explain the large shifts observed after chronic nerve section. Tetanic electrical stimulation of skin or peripheral nerves often caused RFs to shrink, but never to expand. Although natural stimuli of proximal skin would not excite medial dorsal horn cells in intact or acutely deafferented animals, it was found that electrical stimulation of proximal nerves did excite many of these cells, often at short latencies. In the discussion we justify our working hypothesis that the appearance of novel RFs is due to the strengthening or unmasking of normally present but ineffective afferent terminals, rather than to long-distance sprouting of new afferent arbors within the spinal cord.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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