Sympathetically correlated activity of dorsal horn neurons in spinally transected rats

David Chau, Namjin Kim, Lawrence P. Schramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In mammals with an intact neuraxis, most sympathetic nerve activity is generated by brain stem systems. Therefore these systems have attracted much more attention than spinal systems that generate excitatory inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons. The purpose of this study was to determine whether, within hours of C1 spinal cord transection, spinal dorsal horn neurons (DHNs) play a role in generating sympathetic nerve activity. Experiments were conducted in chloralose-anesthetized rats. We recorded renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) in the left renal nerve, and we recorded the activity of neurons located in the left dorsal horn at T2, T8, T10, T13, and L2. We also recorded the activity of neurons in the right dorsal horn at T10. The somatic fields and cutaneous modalities of most neurons were determined. Spike-triggered averaging was used to determine relationships between the ongoing activity of DHNs and ongoing RSNA. In the left dorsal horn, bursts of ongoing activity of 16% of DHNs at T8 and 43% of DHNs at T10 were positively correlated with bursts of ongoing RSNA at latencies of 59 ± 8 (SE) ms. At no other level on the left side, nor in the T10 segment on the right side, was the activity of DHNs correlated with RSNA. DHNs with activity correlated with RSNA were located only in dorsal horn laminae III-V. Deeper laminae were not investigated in these experiments. The activity of all sympathetically correlated DHNs exhibited bursts of action potentials with interspike intervals of < 10 ms. All but one of the sympathetically correlated DHNs exhibited wide-dynamic-range modalities. The modalities of sympathetically uncorrelated neurons were more heterogeneous. Brief (5-10 s) noxious cutaneous stimulation of mid- and lower thoracic dermatomes on the left side excited all sympathetically correlated DHNs and simultaneously increased RSNA. The excitatory cutaneous fields of sympathetically correlated neurons were circumscribed by the excitatory fields for RSNA. The excitatory cutaneous fields of some sympathetically uncorrelated DHNs extended beyond the excitatory fields for RSNA. Noxious cutaneous stimulation of the extremities on the left side that decreased RSNA simultaneously decreased the activity of all sympathetically correlated DHNs. These data provide electrophysiological evidence that, in spinally transected rats, a population of DHNs may generate or convey excitatory input to renal sympathetic preganglionic neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2966-2974
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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