Rostral ventromedial medulla control of spinal sensory processing in normal and pathophysiological states

joko sw


Complex networks of pathways project from various structures in the brain to modulate spinal processing of sensory input in a top-down fashion. The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) in the brainstem is one major final common output of this endogenous modulatory system and is involved in the relay of sensory information between the spinal cord and brain. The net output of descending neurons that exert inhibitory and facilitatory effects will determine whether neuronal activity in the spinal cord is increased or decreased. By pharmacologically blocking RVM activity with the local anesthetic lignocaine, and then measuring evoked responses of dorsal horn neurons to a range of applied peripheral stimuli, our aim was to determine the prevailing descending influence operating in normal anesthetized animals and animals with experimental neuropathic pain. The injection of 0.8 microl 2% lignocaine into the RVM caused a reduction in deep dorsal horn neuronal responses to electrical and natural stimuli in 64% of normal animals and in 81% of spinal-nerve-ligated (SNL) animals. In normal animals, responses to noxious input were predominantly reduced, while in SNL animals, reductions in spinal cord activity induced by intra-RVM lignocaine further included responses to non-noxious stimuli. This suggests that in terms of activity at least, if not number, descending facilitations are the predominant RVM influence that impacts the spinal cord in normal animals. Moreover, the increase in the proportion of neurons showing a post-lignocaine reduction in dorsal horn activity in SNL rats suggests that the strength of these facilitatory influences increases after neuropathy. This predominant inhibitory spinal effect following the injection of lignocaine into the RVM may be due to blockade of facilitatory On cells



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