Spinal dorsal horn neuronal responses to myelinated versus unmyelinated heat nociceptors and their modulation by activation of the periaqueductal grey in the rat

Simon McMullan*, Bridget M. Lumb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The aim of this study was to further understand the central processing of inputs arising from unmyelinated and myelinated nociceptors by (i) determining the response characteristics of Class 2 dorsal horn neurones to preferential activation of C- and A-fibre heat nociceptors, and (ii) investigating the control exerted by the dorsolateral/lateral region of the midbrain periaqueductal grey (DL/L-PAG) on C- and A-fibre-evoked responses of these neurones. The use of different rates of skin heating to preferentially activate unmyelinated (C-fibre; 2.5°C s-1) versus myelinated (A-fibre; 7.5°C s-1) heat nociceptors revealed that, in response to C-nociceptor activation, Class 2 neurones encode well only over the first 5°C above threshold, and that at higher temperatures responses decline. In contrast, responses to A-nociceptor activation are linear and encode skin temperature over more than 10°C, and almost certainly into the tissue-damaging range. PAG stimulation raised thresholds and decreased significantly the magnitude of responses to A- and C-nociceptor activation. However, differences were revealed in the effects of descending control on the relationships between skin temperature and neuronal firing rate; the linear relationship that occurred over the first 5°C of slow rates of skin heating was no longer evident, whereas that to fast rates of skin heating was maintained over the entire range, albeit shifted to the right. These data indicate that the sensori-discriminative information conveyed in A-fibre nociceptors is maintained and that the information from C-nociceptors is lost in the presence of descending control from the DL/L-PAG. The data are discussed in relation to the role of the DL/L-PAG in mediating active coping strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-556
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physiology
Volume576
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

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