Modulation and transmission of peripheral inputs in monkey cuneate and external cuneate nuclei

J Neurophysiol. 2011 Nov;106(5):2764-75. doi: 10.1152/jn.00449.2011. Epub 2011 Aug 24.


Somatosensory signals undergo substantial modulation in the dorsal column nuclei. We examined transmission of signals from forelimb afferents in primate cuneate and external cuneate nuclei. In anesthetized macaque monkeys, the median, ulnar, deep radial, and superficial radial nerves were electrically stimulated at 1.5-2× motor threshold with independent Poisson trains whereas extracellular recordings were made from 317 cells. Responses to peripheral stimulation included instances of both brief facilitation and long lasting suppression. A high proportion of cells (87%) responded to stimulation of two or more peripheral nerves, suggesting a large amount of convergence. Facilitated cells showed coherence with the peripheral stimulation across a broad frequency range; coherence was especially high in cells that responded with a burst of action potentials. Cells that responded with suppression also showed significant coherence, but this fell rapidly for frequencies above 25 Hz. Similar results were seen in both the main and external cuneate. When stimulation of one nerve was conditioned by a preceding nerve stimulus, the response to the second stimulus was attenuated for around 40 ms. This occurred independently of whether the first stimulus produced an initial facilitation or suppression or whether the same or a different nerve served as a conditioning stimulus. Mechanical stimulation of a receptive field suppressed responses to a second identical mechanical stimulus over a similar timescale. We conclude that the primate cuneate nucleus is capable of transmitting temporal information about stimuli with high fidelity; stimuli interact both temporally and spatially to modulate the onward transmission of information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Median Nerve / physiology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Ulnar Nerve / physiology