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Modulation of Responses of Four Types of Feline Ascending Tract Neurons by Serotonin and Noradrenaline



Modulation of responses of four types of ascending tract cells by noradrenaline and serotonin was compared in order to investigate how information forwarded by these cells may be gated by monoaminergic tract neurons. Spinocervical tract, postsynaptic dorsal column and dorsal spinocerebellar tract neurons located in Clarke's column and in the dorsal horn were identified by their axonal projections. Noradrenaline and serotonin were applied ionophoretically close to a selected neuron, and their effects were tested on extracellularly recorded responses of this neuron to electrical stimulation of low-threshold skin afferents and group II muscle spindle afferents. The modulatory actions of noradrenaline and serotonin were estimated from changes in the number of responses evoked by 30 successive stimuli, the minimal latencies of these responses, and their firing frequency. All four populations of ascending tract neurons investigated were modulated by serotonin and noradrenaline, but not in the same way. The responses were most often depressed by noradrenaline and facilitated by serotonin, but in some types of neuron they were affected in the same direction. Transmission from low-threshold skin and group II muscle afferents changed in the same direction in some types of neuron but in the opposite direction in other types. The results indicate that transfer of information from skin and group II muscle afferents to supraspinal centres may be gated by descending monoaminergic pathways in a highly differentiated manner, and is adjusted to the requirements of various behavioural situations.