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      Incision-induced changes in receptive field properties of rat dorsal horn neurons.


      Animals, Surgical Procedures, Operative, physiology, Spinal Cord, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Rats, Pain Threshold, physiopathology, Pain, Neurons, Male, Hyperalgesia

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          To learn more about pain mechanisms produced by surgery, responses of wide dynamic range (WDR) and high threshold (HT) dorsal horn neurons were studied before and after an incision. For this study, an incision was made in a mechanically insensitive area of the receptive field (RF) of the dorsal horn neuron in the plantar aspect of the foot and changes in mechanical response properties were studied. Action potentials from single dorsal horn neurons were recorded in halothane anesthetized rats and these neurons were characterized as WDR or HT. Changes in background activity and responses to a variety of mechanical stimuli adjacent to the incision, distant to the injury, and in areas throughout the hindquarters were recorded. Fifty neurons were recorded (29 WDR, 21 HT cells); only nine of these had a sustained increase in background activity after incision. Marked decreases in threshold to von Frey filaments applied adjacent to the wound occurred in 9 of 28 WDR neurons but in none of 21 HT cells. Von Frey filament thresholds distant to the incision were largely not changed. A blunt mechanical stimulus activated 18 of 22 WDR neurons when applied directly on the incision. HT cells were largely not excited by this mechanical stimulus after incision. The RF to pinch was enlarged in 31 neurons to include areas outside the injury. Pinch RFs of both WDR and HT cells expanded. These results suggest that incisions in mechanically insensitive areas of the RF of dorsal horn neurons produced little change in background activity; expansion of pinch RFs outside the injury was common. Changing a mechanically insensitive area of the RF of WDR neurons to a mechanically sensitive area by an incision could contribute to pain behaviors that indicate primary mechanical hyperalgesia in behavioral studies.

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