Nociceptive neurons of the raccoon lateral thalamus

Donald A Simone, M. E. Hanson, N. A. Bernau, B. H. Pubols

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17 Scopus citations


1. Responses to noxious mechanical and thermal stimuli were examined in 48 thalamic neurons in barbiturate or chloralose-anesthetized raccoons, with special attention to neurons whose peripheral receptive fields (RFs) included glabrous skin of the forepaw. Recording loci were in the core of the ventrobasal complex (VB; n = 32), its ventral or dorsal border (n = 5), or the medial division of the posterior nuclear group (POm; n = 11). 2. Twenty- one VB neurons and 7 POm neurons were classed as wide dynamic range (WDR), whereas 2 VB neurons and 4 POm neurons were classed as nociceptive specific (NS). Response properties of 14 light touch (LT) neurons located in VB were also examined. 3. WDR and NS neurons were not segregated, but rather were intermixed along the ventral and dorsal borders of VB, as well as in POm, and WDR and LT neurons were intermixed in the core of VB. Within the VB core, both LT and WDR neurons were somatotopically organized. 4. All WDR neurons had larger high-threshold than low-threshold RFs, and this difference was greater for POm neurons than for VB neurons. RF areas of LT neurons and low- threshold RF areas of WDR neurons were comparable to those previously reported for raccoon VB units. 5. Out of 25 WDR cells tested, 20 had heat thresholds >53°C; the range of thresholds in the remaining 5 was 49-53°C. Four out of five NS neurons tested had heat thresholds >53°C; the threshold of the fifth was 51°C. Of the six neurons with heat thresholds ≤53°C, two each were in the core of VB, along the border of VB, and in POm. 6. Sensitization to heat after a mild heat injury to the glabrous RF (53°C for 90 s, or 55°C for 30 s) occurred in 8 out of 16 neurons tested, and persisted for up to 2 h. Median thresholds decreased from >53°C before injury to 47°C after injury, and responses to suprathreshold stimuli were enhanced. There was a significantly greater likelihood (P = 0.02) for sensitization to occur in POm neurons (6/7) than in VB neurons (2/9). 7. It is suggested that a small proportion of neurons located in VB and POm contribute to the sensation of heat pain. Furthermore, sensitization of these neurons may contribute to heat hyperalgesia after an injury to glabrous skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-328
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993


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