Spinothalamic and spinohypothalamic tract neurons in the sacral spinal cord of rats. II. Responses to cutaneous and visceral stimuli

James T. Katter, Robert J. Dado, Ewa Kostarczyk, Glenn J Giesler

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52 Scopus citations

Abstract

1. A goal of this study was to determine whether neurons in the sacral spinal cord that project to the diencephalon are involved in the processing and transmission of sensory information that arises in the perineum and pelvis. Therefore, 58 neurons in segments L6-S2 were activated antidromically with currents ≤30 μA from points in the contralateral diencephalon in rats that were anesthetized with urethan. 2. Responses to mechanical stimuli applied to the cutaneous receptive fields of these neurons were used to classify them as low threshold (LT), wide dynamic range (WDR) or high-threshold (HT) neurons. Twenty-two neurons (38%) responded preferentially to brushing (LT neurons). Eighteen neurons (31%) responded to brushing but responded with higher firing frequencies to noxious mechanical stimuli (WDR neurons). Eighteen neurons (31%) responded only to noxious intensities of mechanical stimulation (HT neurons). LT neurons were recorded predominantly in nucleus proprius of the dorsal horn. Nociceptive neurons (WDR and HT) were recorded throughout the dorsal horn. 3. Cutaneous receptive fields were mapped for 56 neurons. Forty-five (80%) had receptive fields that included at least two of the following regions ipsilaterally: the rump, perineum, or tail. Eleven neurons (20%) had receptive fields that were restricted to one of these areas or to the ipsilateral hind limb. Thirty- eight neurons (68%) had cutaneous receptive fields that also included regions of the contralateral tail or perineum. On the perineum, receptive fields usually encompassed perianal and perivaginal areas including the clitoral sheath. There were no statistically significant differences in the locations or sizes of receptive fields for LT neurons compared with nociceptive (WDR and HT) neurons. 4. Thirty-seven LT, WDR, and HT neurons were tested for their responsiveness to heat stimuli. Five (14%) responded to increasing intensities of heat with graded increases in their firing frequencies. Thirty-two LT, WDR, and HT neurons also were tested with cold stimuli. None responded with graded increases in their firing frequencies to increasingly colder stimuli. There were no statistically significant differences among the responses of LT, WDR, and HT neurons to either heat or cold stimuli. 5. Forty LT, WDR, and HT neurons were tested for their responsiveness to visceral stimuli by distending a balloon placed into the rectum and colon with a series of increasing pressures. Seventeen (43%) exhibited graded increases in their firing frequencies in response to increasing pressures of colorectal distention (CrD). None of the responsive neurons responded reproducibly to CrD at an intensity of 20 mmHg, and all responded at intensities of ≥80 mmHg. More than 90% responded abruptly at stimulus onset, responded continuously throughout the stimulus period, and stopped responding immediately alter termination of the stimulus. 6. Thirty-one neurons were tested for their responsiveness to distention of a balloon placed inside the vagina. Eleven (35%) exhibited graded increases in their firing frequencies in response to increasing pressures of vaginal distention (VaD). The thresholds and temporal profiles of the responses to VaD were similar to those for CrD. Twenty-nine neurons were tested with both CrD and VaD. Thirteen (45%) were excited by both stimuli, four (14%) responded to CrD but not VaD, and one (3%) was excited by VaD but not CrD. Neurons excited by CrD, VaD, or both were recorded throughout the dorsal horn. 7. As a population, WDR neurons, but not LT or HT neurons, encoded increasing pressures of CrD and VaD with graded increases in their firing frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2606-2628
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Volume75
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1996

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