In rats, stimulation of the vaginal cervix with a glass rod reliably produces analgesia, as measured by the tail-flick test. The present studies sought to identify the neural substrates underlying this potent pain inhibition by examining the effects of decerebration, spinalization and bilateral dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) lesions on vaginal stimulation-produced analgesia (VSPA). These studies indicate that the neural circuitry mediating VSPA is contained within the caudal brainstem and spinal cord, since decerebration did not reduce VSPA when compared with sham-operated controls. A significant though markedly reduced level of analgesia was induced in spinalized rats, indicating that VSPA involves both intraspinal and descending pathways. This descending pathway, originating within supraspinal nuclei of the caudal brainstem, projects to the spinal cord via the DLF, since DLF lesions and spinalization produced equivalent reductions in VSPA compared to sham-operated controls. These results, considered in the light of previous electrophysiological and anatomical findings, indicate that the ventral medullary region may be the source of the descending DLF projection mediating VSPA.
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- dorsolateral funiculus
- opiate analgesia
- vaginal stimulation-produced analgesia