Differential inhibitory effects of medial and lateral midbrain stimulatiom on spinal neuronal discharges to noxious skin heating in the cat

Earl Carstens, D. Klumpp, M. Zimmermann

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99 Scopus citations


The inhibitory effects of electrical stimulation in midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG) and lateral reticular formation (LRF) on spinal dorsal horn neuronal responses to noxious skin heating were investigated in cats anesthetized with Nembutal and N2O. 31 dorsal horn units driven by electrical stimulation of the posterior tibial and/or superficial peroneal nerves at A- and C-fiber strength responded to noxious radiant heating (e.g., 50°C) of the skin of the hindpaw. All units tested were inhibited by electrical stimulation (100-Hz trains, 3/s) of both PAG and LRF. Systematic tracking with the stimulating electrode revealed that descending inhibition is generated at sites throughout the mediolateral extent of the midbrain. Particularly effective sites were in LRF and PAG. More powerful descending inhibition was generated from LRF than from PAG sites, based on quantitative comparison in the same unit of degree of inhibition of spinal unit heat-evoked discharges by PAG and LRF stimulation at the same current intensity, current threshold for inhibition by PAG and LRF stimulation, and slope of curves plotting degree of inhibition in relation to intensity of PAG and LRF stimulation. Dorsal horn neurons show a linear relationship between response magnitude and temperature of skin heating during a series of heat stimuli (42-50°C) applied at 3-min intervals. When the series is repeated during PAG stimulation, the slope of the linear temperature-response curve is reduced without a change in the response threshold. In contrast, repetition of the heating series during LRF stimulation produced a parallel rightward shift in the linear temperature-response curve, with commensurate increase in response threshold. The results indicate that functionally separate descending inhibitory systems are activated by stimulation of PAG and LRF. Possible inhibitory mechanisms and the functional significance of descending inhibition from PAG and LRF are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-342
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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