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Brain Res. 1991 Aug 2;555(2):181-92.

Responses of cat C1 spinal cord dorsal and ventral horn neurons to noxious and non-noxious stimulation of the head and face.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


Previous anatomical studies have shown that trigeminal and cervical afferent nerve fibers project to the upper cervical segments of the spinal cord. To determine the response properties of neurons in the upper cervical spinal cord, we studied the response of C1 dorsal and ventral horn cells to electrical and graded mechanical stimulation of the face, head and neck in anesthetized cats. Neurons were classified as low-threshold-mechanoreceptive (LTM), wide-dynamic-range (WDR), nociceptive-specific (NS) or unresponsive, based on their responsiveness to graded mechanical stimulation. Extracellular single unit recordings were obtained from 118 neurons excited by cervical (24), trigeminal (39) or both cervical and trigeminal (55) stimulation and from 24 neurons unresponsive to peripheral stimulation. Based on neuronal mechanical response properties, 52.2% of the responsive neurons were classified as LTM, 35.9% as WDR and 11.9% as NS. WDR neurons exhibited more convergence and had larger receptive fields than either NS or LTM neurons. WDR and NS neurons had longer first spike latencies than LTM neurons at all tested sites. Only WDR neurons were found to project to the contralateral caudal thalamus. Within C1, LTM neurons were located primarily in laminae III and IV, WDR neurons in lamina V and NS neurons in laminae VII and VIII. These data suggest that some neurons in the first cervical segment of the spinal cord receive convergent input from trigeminal and cervical pathways and may be involved in mediating orofacial and cranial pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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