EVE ANDERSEN, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


This dissertation describes an ascending serotonergic pain modulation system projecting from the dorsal raphe (DR) nucleus of the midbrain to the parafascicularis (PF) nucleus of the thalamus. Previous studies by other investigators have led to the hypothesis that the DR would modulate responses to noxious stimuli in the PF by using 5HT. These other studies have shown that the DR contains serotonergic (5HT) cell bodies which project to many areas of the forebrain including the PF, that the PF is involved in pain perception, that electrical stimulation of the DR causes analgesia, and 5HT is necessary for this type of analgesia. One theory of the mechanisms of an endogenous pain modulation system is that brainstem nuclei have a decsending projection to the spinal cord to inhibit responses to noxious input at this level. The present study tests the hypothesis that there is also an ascending pain modulation pathway from the brainstem to the thalamus. To test this hypothesis, several types of experiments were performed on anesthetised rats. The major results of the experiments are as follows: (1) Three types of spontaneously active PF neurons were found: slow units firing at 1-10 spikes/sec, bursting units firing 2-5 times in 10-20 msec, pattern repeating every 1-2 sec, and fast units firing at 15-40 spikes/sec. The first two groups showed similar results to the treatments and were analysed together. The fast firing units did not respond to any of the treatments. (2) Noxious stimuli primarily increased neuronal firing rates in the PF, where as DR stimulation primarily decreased neuronal activity. DR stimulation applied simultaneously with noxious stimuli decreased the responses to the noxious stimuli as recorded in the PF units. (3) Microiontophoretically applied 5HT in the PF decreased spontaneous activity in the PF in a dose dependent manner and decreases responses to noxious stimuli in the PF. (4) Reduction of brain 5HT by 5,7 dihydroxytryptamine, a potent 5HT neurotoxin, caused PF units to be hypersensitive to both noxious and non noxious stimuli, reversed the effects of DR stimulation so that DR stimulation increased single units activity in the PF, and prolonged and intensified the depressant action of microiontophoretically applied 5HT. The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that the DR uses 5HT in a direct ascending pathway to the PF to modulate pain in the thalamus.

Subject Area

Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

ANDERSEN, EVE, "AN ASCENDING SEROTONERGIC PAIN MODULATION SYSTEM" (1982). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8306625.