The neural basis of footshock analgesia: the role of specific ventral medullary nuclei

Brain Res. 1983 Oct 16;276(2):305-15. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(83)90738-2.


Previous studies have demonstrated that brief front paw shock produces opiate analgesia while brief hind paw shock produces non-opiate analgesia in rats. Additionally, front paw shock and hind paw shock can produce an opiate-mediated classically conditioned analgesia; that is, when shock is delivered to an animal, environmental cues become associated with this stimulus such that these cues become capable of producing potent opiate analgesia in the absence of shock. Investigations of the neural bases of these phenomena have revealed that front paw shock and classical conditioning lead to activation of supraspinal sites which mediate analgesia via descending pathways lying solely within the dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) of the spinal cord. Hind paw footshock induced analgesia (FSIA) is also mediated by a descending DLF pathway but is unlike front paw FSIA or classically conditioned analgesia in that it involves intraspinal pathways as well. The aim of the present series of experiments was to identify the supraspinal origin of the centrifugal DLF pathway mediating front paw (opiate) FSIA, hind paw (non-opiate) FSIA, and classically conditioned (opiate) analgesia. These studies examined the effect of electrolytic lesions of the nucleus raphe magnus (NRM), nucleus reticularis paragigantocellularis (PGC), and combined lesions of these two areas (nucleus raphe alatus, NRA) on these environmentally-induced analgesias. The results of this work indicate that the NRA is the origin of the spinal cord DLF pathway mediating front paw (opiate) FSIA and classically conditioned (opiate) analgesia. Hind paw (non-opiate) FSIA is also mediated, in part, by the NRA but must involve another, yet unidentified, brainstem site(s) as well.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia*
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Electroshock
  • Endorphins / physiology
  • Forelimb
  • Hindlimb
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiopathology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Endorphins