Spinal integration of hot and cold nociceptive stimuli by wide-dynamic-range neurons in anesthetized adult rats


Early neuronal processing of thermal noxious information relies mostly on molecular detectors of the transient receptor potential family expressed by specific subpopulation of sensory neurons. This information may converge to second-order wide-dynamic-range (WDR) neurons located in the deep layer of the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.


Using a micro-Peltier thermode thermal contact stimulator II delivering various cold and hot noxious stimulations, we have characterized the extracellular electrophysiological responses of mechanosensitive WDR neurons in anesthetized adult male and female Wistar rats.


Most of the WDR neurons were activated after hot and cold noxious stimulations, at mean temperature thresholds corresponding to 43 and 20°C, respectively. If the production of action potential was not different in frequency between the 2 thermal modalities, the latency to observe the first action potential was significantly different (cold: 212 ms; hot: 490 ms, unpaired Student t-test: t = 8.041; df = 32; P < 0.0001), suggesting that different fiber types and circuits were involved. The temporal summation was also different because no facilitation was seen for cold noxious stimulations contrary to hot noxious ones.


Altogether, this study helps better understand how short-lasting and long-lasting hot or cold noxious stimuli are integrated by mechanosensitive WDR neurons. In our experimental conditions, we found WDR neurons to be nociceptive specific for C-fiber–mediated hot stimuli. We also found that cold nonnoxious and noxious information, triggered at glabrous skin areas, are likely taken in charge by A-type sensory neurons. This study will be helpful to establish working hypothesis explaining the thermal pain symptoms displayed by animal models and patients in a translational extent."


Clémence Gieré, Meggane Melchior, André Dufour, Pierrick Poisbeau

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