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J Neurophysiol. 1995 May;73(5):1752-62.

Unmyelinated nociceptors of rat paraspinal tissues.

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Department of Cell Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


1. We made recordings from rat dorsal root filaments to study unmyelinated afferent units (conduction velocity < or = 1.5 m/s) associated with deep paraspinal tissues of the dorsal sacrum and proximal tail. Data from 57 unmyelinated units were analyzed in 47 experiments. Receptive fields were identified in intact animals and then surgically isolated using microdissection. Units were characterized using mechanical, noxious chemical, and thermal stimuli. 2. These recordings revealed innervation of the nerve sheaths and surrounding connective tissue, muscles, tendons, and tissue apposed to the undersurface of the skin. No units were found with receptive fields directly on joint capsular tissue. The receptive fields of the units were often multiple and located in more than one tissue; 31 of 57 units showed convergence from different tissues. 3. The units with receptive fields on neurovascular bundles shared sensitivities with other deep tissue units described in this and other reports. These units may have clinical importance in pain due to peripheral neuropathies. 4. The units initially responded to strong mechanical stimulation of the intact animal and often to noxious stretch of the tail. Once surgically isolated, an individual unit's threshold to mechanical stimuli appeared lower. 5. Capsaicin (0.001%-0.1%) elicited responses in 81% (17 of 21) of the units tested. Bradykinin (20 micrograms/ml) elicited responses in 45% (10 of 22) of the units tested. Noxious cold (4-10 degrees C) and hot (55 degrees C) stimulation elicited discharges from 33% (5 of 15) and 25% (5 of 20) of the units tested, respectively. 6. The unmyelinated units had similar mechanical, chemical, and thermal sensitivities. These similarities and the observed convergence only allowed separation of units by the tissue in which the ending was found, and did not allow further classification. 7. The prevalence of background discharge suggested that many units were sensitized during the experiments. 8. The sensitivities of these paraspinal units were similar to those reported for other tissues. Because of the anatomic similarity of the paraspinal tissues of the proximal tail and the lumbar spine, the conclusions of the present study can be related to the lumbar spine. These afferent units are thought to participate in nociception from the deep paraspinal tissues.

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