A wealth of mechanical information from the body generates various forms of sensory experience during touch or kinesthesia. Dorsal column nuclei (DCN) in the medulla are the first relay station for somatosensory inputs from peripheral receptors. These nuclei integrate somatosensory information and send the output to higher-order centers; therefore, investigating the firing patterns of DCN neurons should elucidate coding principles within the somatosensory system. In this study, we quantified the firing patterns of DCN neurons and examined whether the firing patterns of particular neurons are altered when moving tactile stimuli are applied in different directions. The activities of 17 neurons in the DCN of anesthetized rats were selected and their firing patterns were analyzed using LvR, which refers to the local variation of intervals of action potentials (i.e., the cross-correlation between consecutive intervals of action potentials) compensated by the refractoriness constant, R. The LvR of the 17 neurons ranged widely from 0.35 to 2.28. Of the 17 neurons, 12 responded to hair deflection (hair neurons), whereas five responded specifically to movement of forelimb joints. In 11 of 12 hair neurons, moving stimuli were applied in two to four different directions, which yielded 25 pairs of comparisons. Of these, 14 pairs (56%) showed significant differences in LvR. Among these 14 pairs, the range of LvR fluctuation was 0.13 ± 0.06 (mean ± standard deviation) and its effect size (Cohen’s d) was 0.6 ± 0.2. These results suggest that the firing pattern of individual DCN neurons may contribute to somatosensory discrimination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)