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Receptive Properties Of Pial Afferents

W. Jänig, M. Koltzenburg
Published 1991 · Medicine

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&NA; The blood vessels and the pial surface of the brain, spinal cord and its roots are innervated by primary afferent neurones. Here, we have electrophysiologically characterized the functional properties of a subpopulation of these afferent fibres that supply the ventral roots of the cat sacral spinal cord. We have taken advantage of the unique anatomical arrangement of these primary afferent neurones which have their central axon in the dorsal root and project with their peripheral process into the segmental ventral root. In 10 experiments, 14 units were recorded in the dorsal root S2 which responded to electrical stimulation of the segmental ventral root. As judged by their conduction velocity ranging from 0.1 to 2.3 m/sec, all fibres were unmyelinated. In 4 cases a spot‐like receptive field was located on the root where the units were reproducibly activated by mechanical stimuli, the most effective being a slight stretch. In two units tested, topical application of hypertonic saline onto the receptive field, but not at other portions of the axon elicited a long‐lasting vigorous discharge with intermittent bursts. There was no obvious association of the receptive field with small blood vessels. In 5 of the 14 units including 2 with a mechanosensitive receptive field we observed latency jumps of the action potential with electrical stimulation of the ventral root close to the dorsal root ganglion. In some of these units latency jumps were also observed at other positions when the stimulation electrodes were moved centrally towards the spinal cord. We conclude that a subpopulation of unmyelinated fibres in the spinal ventral root are primary afferents innervating the root proper or its sheath. Since the fibres responded best to noxious stimuli they are a potential peripheral pathway involved in a number of radicular pain states. The presence of latency jumps suggests that some of these afferents have multiple axon collaterals.
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