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Abstract

The currently accepted concept of a primary sensory cell is a cell that gives rise to a central process which passes through the dorsal root to the spinal cord and a peripheral process which passes to the periphery via a peripheral nerve. If this is correct, then there should be equal numbers of sensory axons in the dorsal root, dorsal root ganglion cells, and sensory axons in the proximal peripheral nerve. The present study obtains these counts in animals in which extraneous axons have been removed from the peripheral nerve and root. The counts indicate that there are approximately 2.3 sensory axons in the dorsal root and proximal peripheral nerve for each ganglion cell in the sacral segments of the rat. We interpret these data as indicating that there is significant branching of sensory axons in the dorsal root and proximal peripheral nerve and thus the generally accepted picture of a dorsal root ganglion cell is not correct for some, perhaps all, of these cells. We offer the speculation that this peripheral branching may be an indication of single sensory neurons having receptive fields in two separate locations, and thus this may be an anatomical explanation for certain types of referred pain.