Mechanically insensitive afferents (MIAs) in cutaneous nerves of monkey

Brain Res. 1991 Oct 11;561(2):252-61. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(91)91601-v.


A problem in the study of nociceptors is that intense stimuli are used to locate the receptive field (RF), and thus the receptor may be damaged before the first responses are recorded. In addition, some nociceptors do not respond to the mechanical stimuli often used to search for the RF. To overcome these problems, an electrical search technique was developed to locate the RF of cutaneous nociceptors. In the hairy skin of anesthetized monkey, we used this technique to locate the RF of 63 A delta-fibers and 22 C-fibers that had extremely high thresholds or were unresponsive to mechanical stimuli. We refer to these afferents as mechanically insensitive afferents (MIAs). Ten A delta-fiber MIAs had a short latency response to stepped heat stimuli and could be responsible for first pain sensation. Five A delta-fiber MIAs and one C-fiber MIA did not respond to mechanical or heat stimuli but did respond to injection into the electrical RF of an artificial inflammatory soup containing histamine, bradykinin, prostaglandin E1, and serotonin. These chemoreceptors might be responsible for the pain and itch sensations that result from chemical stimuli. Some MIAs became more responsive to mechanical stimuli after injection into the RF of the inflammatory soup and, thus, may contribute to the hyperalgesia to mechanical stimuli associated with cutaneous injury. A large proportion of the A delta-fiber (48%) and C-fiber (30%) afferents in this study were insensitive to mechanical stimuli. The role of these MIAs in sensation needs to be studied further. The electrical search technique enables a systematic study of these afferents to be performed. This technique may also be of use to identify and characterize dorsal horn neurons that have inputs from MIAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Afferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Hot Temperature
  • Inflammation
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neural Conduction
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Soaps


  • Soaps