Nerve fibre discharges, cerebral potentials and sensations induced by CO2 laser stimulation

Hum Neurobiol. 1984;3(1):33-40.


Short radiant heat pulses, emitted by a high power CO2 laser, were used to investigate single nociceptor activity, cerebral potentials and concomitant sensations. Stimuli of 20 and 50 ms duration with different intensities were randomly applied to the hairy skin of the hand. Microelectroneurography was performed from the radial nerve at the wrist; 26 stable recordings were evaluated. Pre- and post-stimulus EEG segments were recorded from vertex versus linked ear lobes. Sensation was assessed on an eight-step category scale, an adjective scale, and by reaction times. In some experiments an A-fibre block was applied in order to isolate C-fibre responses. The main results were: Short heat stimuli activate C-units. In addition one of two identified A delta-units responded. None of the 15 A beta-units investigated was activated by the heat pulses. Short heat stimuli evoked cerebral potentials having a main vertex positive component at about 400 ms. These potentials were ascribed to A delta-fibre input. Laser induced pain consisted of an immediate stinging component, followed by a burning pain which often lasted several seconds. Reaction time to first pain ranged from 400-500 ms. Weak laser stimuli induced non-painful sensations mostly of tactile character. High correlations were found between the number of spikes elicited by a given stimulus and the intensity of the evoked sensation. Intensity discrimination, as evaluated by measures of Signal Detection Theory, was better in the peripheral C-units than in the subjective ratings. If conduction of A-fibres was blocked by pressure, A delta-related cerebral potential components vanished.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Lasers
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Radial Nerve / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Thermoreceptors / physiology*
  • Thermosensing / physiology