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Brain Res. 1996 Feb 5;708(1-2):128-34.

Brain-mediated responses to vaginocervical stimulation in spinal cord-transected rats: role of the vagus nerves.

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Institute of Animal Behavior, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, Newark, 07102, USA.


The present study was designed to ascertain whether the vagus nerves convey functional sensory activity from the reproductive tract in rats. Previously, vaginocervical mechanostimulation (VS) was shown to increase pupil diameter (PD) and the threshold of vocalization to tail shock (Voc-T). These responses were attenuated but not abolished by combined bilateral transection of the 'genito-spinal' nerves (i.e. pelvic, hypogastric and pudendal). Subsequent bilateral vagotomy further reduced or abolished the residual responses. In the present study, spinal cord transection above the known level of entry of the genito-spinal nerves was combined with bilateral vagotomy. In ovariectomized rats, after spinal cord transection at thoracic 7 (T7X), lumbar 5 (L5X) levels, or sham surgery (Sh), responses to VS were measured, the vagus nerves were then transected bilaterally, and responses to VS were again measured. VS significantly increased Voc-T and PD after sham procedure or spinal cord transection at either level. Subsequent bilateral vagotomy abolished the VS-induced increase in PD in the T7X group. Due to low survival rate, the effect of vagotomy on Voc-T could not be determined. Consequently, we performed a second experiment. In non-ovariectomized rats, VS significantly increased PD but reduced Voc-T in the T7X group compared to the Sh group, and subsequent bilateral vagotomy abolished both responses. These findings provide evidence that, in the rat, the vagus nerves provide a functional sensory pathway from the reproductive tract directly to the medulla oblongata of the brain, bypassing the spinal cord.

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