The proposed research is part of a project whose long-term goal is to add to our understanding of the tactile information processing capabilities and limitations of the somatosensory system, especially those neural regions and systems responsible for processing tactile information derived from mechanical stimulation of the glabrous surfaces of the hand. Specifically, it is proposed to examine functional properties and stimulus-response relationships of single neurons of three spinal pathways which project, directly or indirectly, to the thalamic ventrobasal complex: the spinocervical tract, the postsynaptic dorsal column system, and the spinothalamic tract. Microelectrodes will be used to record extracellular activity of cell bodies or fibers in response to controlled mechanical stimulation of the glabrous skin of the raccoon's forepaw. Neurons will be identified as belonging to one of these three systems by antidromic electrical stimulation of the appropriate region of spinal cord or brain stem. Specific parameters to be examined include modality and adaptive properties, absolute thresholds, and receptive field areas, as well as effects of controlled mechanical stimulus velocity, displacement, and force on both dynamic and static discharge. Additionally, neurons will be sought which display properties suggesting excitatory or inhibitory convergences, and which display properties of feature detectors (e.g., preferential response to edges or laterally moving stimuli). Properties of neurons of the three spinal pathways will be compared with each other, as well as with properties of both primary afferents and neurons of the cuneate nucleus and thalamic ventrobasal complex, previously studied in this laboratory. These studies should contribute to our knowledge of the differential contribution of three major somatosensory pathways to the processing of tactile information acquired by a behaviorally salient tactile organ system, the forepaw or hand, especially its glabrous surfaces. This, in turn, should provide information relevant to the design of devices for the utilization of tactile information by individuals handicapped in other sensory modalities. Findings should also have neurological relevance to the differential diagnosis of spinal cord injury or disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Communication Sciences and Disorders (CMS)
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Good Samaritan Hosp & Medical Center(Prtlnd,OR)
United States
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Pubols Jr, B H; Haring, J H (1995) The raccoon spinocervical and spinothalamic tracts: a horseradish peroxidase study. Brain Res Brain Res Rev 20:196-208
Simone, D A; Hanson, M E; Bernau, N A et al. (1993) Nociceptive neurons of the raccoon lateral thalamus. J Neurophysiol 69:318-28
Pubols Jr, B H; Hirata, H; West-Johnsrud, L (1989) Somatotopic organization of forelimb representation in cervical enlargement of raccoon dorsal horn. J Neurophysiol 61:126-37
Hirata, H; Pubols Jr, B H (1989) Spinocervical tract neurons responsive to light mechanical stimulation of the raccoon forepaw. J Neurophysiol 61:138-48
Pubols Jr, B H; Haring, J H; Rowinski, M J (1989) Patterns of resting discharge in neurons of the raccoon main cuneate nucleus. J Neurophysiol 61:1131-41
Warren, S; Kelahan, A M; Pubols Jr, B H (1986) The somatosensory thalamus of the raccoon: properties of single neurons responsive to light mechanical stimulation of the forepaw. J Neurosci 6:308-17
Rowinski, M J; Haring, J H; Pubols Jr, B H (1985) Response properties of raccoon cuneothalamic neurons. Somatosens Res 2:263-80