Descending inhibitory influences from periaqueductal gray, nucleus raphe magnus, and adjacent reticular formation. II. Effects on medullary dorsal horn nociceptive and nonnociceptive neurons

J Neurophysiol. 1983 Apr;49(4):948-60. doi: 10.1152/jn.1983.49.4.948.


1. This study examined the inhibitory effects elicited by brain stem stimulation on the somatosensory responses of trigeminal medullary dorsal horn (subnucleus caudalis of the spinal trigeminal nucleus) neurons. Single-unit extracellular recordings were obtained in chloralose-anesthetized cats. Neurons were classified as wide dynamic range (WDR), nociceptive specific (NS), or low-threshold mechanoreceptive (LTM). Conditioning stimuli were delivered to the periaqueductal gray (PAG), nucleus cuneiformis (CU), nucleus raphe magnus (NRM), nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (NGC), and nucleus reticularis magnocellularis (NMC). 2. Over 97% of the neurons tested could be inhibited by stimulation in all regions except PAG. Stimulation in the PAG inhibited 91% of the neurons tested. There was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of inhibition of WDR and NS nociceptive (noci) neurons and the LTM nonnociceptive (nonnoci) neurons. 3. Mean stimulation intensities necessary to produce inhibition were determined for each neuron from each stimulation site. The current thresholds necessary to inhibit the responses of noci neurons were found to be significantly lower, on the average, than those of nonnoci neurons at stimulation sites in the PAG, CU, and NGC. 4. Inhibition of the responses of WDR neurons required a lower mean current than for NS neurons but was statistically significant only for PAG and NGC. Thresholds for inhibiting the responses of NS neurons were similar to those for inhibiting the responses of LTM neurons for all regions except CU, where LTM thresholds were markedly but not significantly higher. 5. Stimulation thresholds were found to be lowest in NMC, while in NGC, NRM, and CU they were all similar and slightly higher. Stimulation in the PAG required the highest currents to produce inhibition. 6. These results indicate that stimulation in NRM and PAG not only inhibits the responses of noci neurons but also those of nonnoci neurons. Furthermore, stimulation in reticular regions adjacent to NRM and PAG is frequently even more effective in inhibiting the responses of both noci and nonnoci neurons. In addition, WDR neurons are more effectively inhibited than NS or LTM neurons. These results are compared with those obtained using similar methods in cat lumbar dorsal horn.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Differential Threshold
  • Efferent Pathways
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology*
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiology*
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nucleus, Spinal / physiology*