The digastric reflex evoked by tooth-pulp stimulation in the cat and its modulation by stimuli applied to the limbs

Brain Res. 1985 Jun 10;336(1):33-43. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(85)90413-5.


The digastric reflex evoked by electrical stimulation of tooth pulp in anaesthetized cats was studied together with the effects on this reflex of stimulating other parts of the body. The threshold for the digastric reflex generally lay in the range of stimulus intensities which would excite a large proportion of the pulpal afferent fibres which suggested that a large amount of central summation was required to evoke the reflex. During the course of 25/27 experiments, the threshold for the reflex increased. It was also found that repeated application of suprathreshold stimuli produced first an increase and then a decrease in the reflex response. The application of noxious but not of non-noxious mechanical conditioning stimuli to the limbs produced strong, long-lasting depressions of the digastric reflex. Electrical conditioning stimuli applied to the limbs also depressed the reflex; this depression had a latency of onset of 20-50 ms and lasted for up to 500 ms. When conditioning stimuli were applied to the saphenous nerve, the depression of the reflex occurred only when the stimuli were of an intensity sufficient to excite fibres conducting at less than 40 m X s-1; it may be assumed that some of these fibres would have been high threshold mechanoreceptors or nociceptors. These results show that noxious stimulation of anatomically remote structures can depress the activity of a population of trigeminal brainstem neurones. The opiate antagonist, naloxone, had no detectable effect on either the digastric reflex or the depression of the reflex produced by stimulating other parts of the body. The serotonin antagonists, methysergide and cinanserin, strongly depressed the digastric reflex but it was not clear whether these drugs also affected the depression of the reflex by the conditioning stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Dental Pulp / innervation*
  • Endorphins / physiology
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / physiology*


  • Endorphins
  • Serotonin