Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary 1.Responses were recorded from 160 ascending tract cells in segments L4 to L6 of the spinal cord in chloralose anaesthetized, spinalized cats. The tract cells were identified by antidromic activation following stimulation of pathways in the lateral and ventral funiculi at the level of the spinal cord transection at the thoracolumbar junction. Axonal conduction velocities ranged from 9 to 114 m/s. 2. A sample of 152 of the neurones examined could be subdivided according to the distribution of their receptive fields into 49 cells activated just from receptors located in skin (“s” cells), 17 neurones excited by receptors in deep tissues (“d” cells), 15 units with a convergent input from receptors in skin and deep tissues (“sd” cells), and 25 neurones with a convergent input from the knee joint and either skin (“sj” cells), deep tissues (“dj” cells) or both (“sdj” cells). No receptive fields could be demonstrated for the remaining 46 neurones. 3. “S” and “sj” cells were found almost exclusively in the dorsal horn, whereas many “d”, “sd”, “sdj” and “dj” units were in the ventral horn. Almost all of the cells that lacked receptive fields were in the ventral horn or intermediate grey. 4. Ninety-one of 158 cells (56%) demonstrated no background activity. Of these, 43 cells (27%) lacked receptive fields. Many of the silent neurones were in the ventral horn, but some were in the dorsal horn. Of 25 cells having knee joint input, 18 (72%) had background activity. 5. All of the neurones that had a receptive field in the knee joint also had a convergent input from receptors in other tissues. In 3 cases, there was a receptive field in the skin over the foot (“sj” cells). For 16 cells, receptive fields included not only the knee joint but also skin and deep tissue (“sdj” cells). Usually, the cutaneous receptive field was near the knee joint, but sometimes it was remote, such as on the foot. The deep receptive fields were chiefly in the muscles of the thigh and/or leg. For 6 “dj” cells, the receptive fields included not only the knee joint but also deep fields like those of “sdj” cells. 6. Cutaneous receptive fields were classified as “low threshold” (cells excited best by innocuous intensities of mechanical stimulation), “wide dynamic range” (cells activated by weak mechanical stimuli, but the best responses were to noxious stimuli) or high threshold (innocuous stimuli had little effect, but noxious mechanical stimuli produced a vigorous discharge). Similarly, stimulation of the knee joint with weak mechanical stimuli could excite some neurones, while others could be activated by weak or strong articular stimuli but were excited best by noxious stimuli, and still other neurones were activated by knee joint stimuli only if the intensity was noxious. 7. In several instances, contralateral receptive fields were noted. These were generally in deep tissue or in the knee joint. 8. It was concluded that many of the responses to articular stimulation of the spinal cord ascending tract cells examined in this study could have been mediated by the fine afferent fibres that supply the knee joint. Although further work will be required to determine which particular ascending tracts transmit nociceptive information concerning the knee joint, it can be proposed that many of the responses demonstrated here were likely to play a role in either joint pain of in triggering responses associated with joint pain.
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