Responses of motor units during the hind limb flexion withdrawal reflex evoked by noxious skin heating: phasic and prolonged suppression by midbrain stimulation and comparison with simultaneously recorded dorsal horn units

Earl Carstens, I. G. Campell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

In rats anesthetized with sodium pentobarbital, we quantitatively analyzed descending modulation from the midbrain of a nociceptive flexion withdrawal reflex and responses of associated spinal neurons. We monitored the isometric force of hind limb withdrawal elicited by noxious heat stimuli (42-54 ° C, 10 sec) on the hind paw. In one series of experiments, single-fiber EMG electrodes recorded responses of single muscle fibers (i.e., motor units) in biceps femoris during the hind limb withdrawal, without and during electrical stimulation in the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG) or lateral midbrain reticular formation (LRF). In a second series, responses of single lumbar dorsal horn neurons were also recorded simultaneously. Withdrawal force and associated motor unit responses were suppressed for prolonged periods (4 to > 60 min) following the initial episode of PAG or LRF stimulation in 40% of the rats, while they were suppressed phasically (i.e., only during brain stimulation) in the remainder. Motor unit responses increased in a graded fashion with increasing skin stimulus temperature from threshold (45 ° C) to 54 ° C. During PAG stimulation, the slope of the rate coding function was reduced with no change in threshold temperature. During LRF stimulation the rate coding function was shifted toward higher temperatures with increased threshold (47 ° C). In 14 experiments 43 paired recordings were made from a dorsal horn and a motor unit during hind limb withdrawals. Mean latency to onset and peak of the heat-evoked response was shorter for dorsal horn compared to motor units. In 6 14 rats withdrawal force and motor unit responses were significantly suppressed for more than 8 min following mechanical placement of the stimulating electrodes and/or the initial episode of midbrain stimulation, while the simultaneously recorded dorsal horn unit responses remained constant. Following supplemental administration of pentobarbital (10-30 mg/kg i.V.), withdrawals and motor unit responses to heat were suppressed while dorsal horn unit responses were unchanged or enhanced. Also, in 12 42 cases, withdrawals and motor unit responses decremented markedly during the initial 3 trials of heat, while simultaneously recorded dorsal horn unit responses remained stable. These results indicate that the withdrawal reflex and associated motor units can be markedly suppressed in the absence of comcomittant changes in responsiveness of dorsal horn neurons, and are discussed in terms of the neurocircuitry of spinal flexor reflexes and their descending modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalPain
Volume48
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1992

Keywords

  • Dorsal horn neuron
  • Flexion withdrawal reflex
  • Hind limb
  • Midbrain stimulation
  • Motor unit
  • Noxious heat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Psychology

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