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Stimulus-function, wind-up and modulation by diffuse noxious inhibitory controls of responses of convergent neurons of the spinal trigeminal nucleus oralis


R. Dallel, Laboratoire de Physiologie Oro-Faciale, Faculté de Chirurgie Dentaire, 11 Bd Charles de Gaulle, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France. E-mail:


Extracellular unitary recordings were made from 53 spinal trigeminal nucleus oralis (Sp5O) convergent neurons in halothane-anaesthetized rats. The neurons had an ipsilateral receptive field including mainly oral or perioral regions. They responded to percutaneous electrical stimulation with two peaks of activation. The first had a short latency (4.3 ± 0.3 ms) and low threshold (0.35 ± 0.04 mA), whereas the second had a longer latency (68.1 ± 3.4 ms) and higher threshold (7.3 ± 0.5 mA). Intracutaneous injection of capsaicin (0.1%) produced a strong and rapid reduction of the long-latency responses of Sp5O convergent neurons with little effect on the short-latency responses. In most cases (73%), the long-latency responses exhibited a wind-up phenomenon during repetitive (0.66 Hz) suprathreshold electrical stimulation. These results suggest that C-fibres mediate the long-latency response of Sp5O convergent neurons. Regarding the C-fibre-evoked responses, a linear relationship between the intensity of the applied current and the magnitude of the response was found within the one to three times threshold range. The Sp5O convergent neurons also encoded the intensity of mechanical stimuli applied to the skin or mucosa in the 5–50 g ranges. The evoked activity of Sp5O convergent neurons could be suppressed by noxious heat applied to the tail (52 °C) and long-lasting poststimulus effects followed this. These findings show that convergent neurons in the Sp5O resemble those in the deep laminae of the spinal dorsal horn and spinal trigeminal nucleus caudalis, and further support that the Sp5O plays a part in the processing of nociceptive information from the orofacial region.