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The laminar organization of dorsal horn cells responding to peripheral C fibre stimulation

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Cat dorsal horn was searched for all detectable units that responded to peripheral C fibre input. Fifty-seven such units were examined in detail. They were located in two main areas. One group was in the superficial laminae 1, 2, and possibly dorsal 3 (n = 29), and the other group was much deeper in laminae 5 and 6 (n = 24). Only four units were situated in the region of lamina 4.

Differences were found in the responses to C fibre stimulation of these two groups, both in the optimum stimulus and in the timing of responses to repeated stimulation. Superficial units often did not respond to C fibre stimulation unless a train of two or more stimuli (10 ms apart) were applied, but when responses did occur they were usually very even and regular, with precise onset latencies on repeated stimulation. Deep units tended to need only one peripheral C fibre stimulus for excitation, but the responses were irregular with latencies fluctuating with each stimulus. Some superficial and deep units showed a steady increase in latency of the late C response on repeated stimulation. Increases of up to 80 ms after 30 s of stimulation at 1 Hz were observed.

The results are discussed in terms of the neuronal connections in the dorsal horn.

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Correspondence to M. Fitzgerald.

Additional information

The work was supported by the Medical Research Council and the National Institutes of Health

M. Fitzgerald is a Medical Research Council Training Fellow

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Fitzgerald, M., Wall, P.D. The laminar organization of dorsal horn cells responding to peripheral C fibre stimulation. Exp Brain Res 41, 36–44 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00236677

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Key words

  • Dorsal horn
  • Unmyelinated (C) fibres
  • Response latencies
  • Spinal cord
  • Laminar organization