Characterisation and functional mapping of surface potentials in the rat dorsal column nuclei

Alastair J. Loutit, Ted Maddess, Stephen J. Redmond, John W. Morley, Greg J. Stuart, Jason R. Potas*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Key points: The brainstem dorsal column nuclei (DCN) process sensory information arising from the body before it reaches the brain and becomes conscious. Despite significant investigations into sensory coding in peripheral nerves and the somatosensory cortex, little is known about how sensory information arising from the periphery is represented in the DCN. Following stimulation of hind-limb nerves, we mapped and characterised the evoked electrical signatures across the DCN surface. We show that evoked responses recorded from the DCN surface are highly reproducible and are unique to nerves carrying specific sensory information. Abstract: The brainstem dorsal column nuclei (DCN) play a role in early processing of somatosensory information arising from a variety of functionally distinct peripheral structures, before being transmitted to the cortex via the thalamus. To improve our understanding of how sensory information is represented by the DCN, we characterised and mapped low- (<200 Hz) and high-frequency (550–3300 Hz) components of nerve-evoked DCN surface potentials. DCN surface potentials were evoked by electrical stimulation of the left and right nerves innervating cutaneous structures (sural nerve), or a mix of cutaneous and deep structures (peroneal nerve), in 8-week-old urethane-anaesthetised male Wistar rats. Peroneal nerve-evoked DCN responses demonstrated low-frequency events with significantly longer durations, more high-frequency events and larger magnitudes compared to responses evoked from sural nerve stimulation. Hotspots of low- and high-frequency DCN activity were found ipsilateral to stimulated nerves but were not symmetrically organised. In conclusion, we find that sensory inputs from peripheral nerves evoke unique and characteristic DCN activity patterns that are highly reproducible both within and across animals.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4507-4524
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Physiology
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


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