Relationship between mechano-receptive fields of dorsal horn convergent neurons and the response to noxious immersion of the ipsilateral hindpaw in rats
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This study examines the relationship between mechano-receptive fields (inhibitory and excitatory, located on the ipsilateral hindpaw) of convergent dorsal horn neurons, and the responses of the neurons to noxious immersion of an entire paw in noxious hot water. In pentobarbital anesthetized rats with intact spinal cords and in unanesthetized decerebrate-spinalized rats, rat hindpaws were immersed in 50 degrees C water for 10 s after the mechano-receptive fields had been delineated using 5-s noxious pinches. Convergent neurons were either excited or inhibited by noxious immersion of the hindpaw. In both groups, a significant association (chi2, P < 0.01) was found between the make-up of the mechano-receptive field and the response of the neuron to immersion. Immersion-inhibited neurons (intact = 27, spinalized = 13), always had both an excitatory and an inhibitory mechano-receptive field on the same hindpaw. Additionally, when the hindpaw was removed from the noxious water, these immersion-inhibited cells displayed a strong afterdischarge which was immediately inhibited once the paw was reimmersed. Pinch-induced and immersion-induced inhibition were found in both spinalized and intact rats suggesting spinal mechanisms were sufficient to mediate this effect. The majority of immersion-excited cells showed only an excitatory mechano-receptive field on the hindpaw (intact rats = 18/23 or 78.3%, spinalized rats = 24/36 or 66.7%). However, other immersion-excited cells had both an inhibitory and an excitatory mechano-receptive field on the hindpaw (intact rats = 5/23 or 21.7%, spinalized rats = 12/36 or 33.3%). The response of a convergent neuron, which has its excitatory receptive field located on a paw, to noxious immersion of the entire paw can be predicted by the make-up of the mechano-receptive fields. Additionally, since noxious paw immersion affects ipsilateral convergent neurons in two opposite manners, it suggests that other effects, such as heterotopic actions, might also not be uniform.