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Presynaptic and postsynaptic effects of local cathodal DC polarization within the spinal cord in anaesthetized animal preparations

Journal article
Authors Francesco Bolzoni
Elzbieta Jankowska
Published in Journal of Physiology
Volume 593
Issue 4
Pages 947-966
ISSN 0022-3751
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Pages 947-966
Language en
Keywords adult; afferent nerve group 1; anesthesia induction; animal cell; animal experiment; animal tissue; Article; cat; cathodal polarization; controlled study; dendritic cell; dorsal root potential; female; male; molecular dynamics; motoneuron; nerve excitability; nonhuman; polarization; postsynaptic potential; presynaptic potential; priority journal; rat; sensory nerve; spinal anesthesia; spinal cord dorsal horn; stimulus response; synaptic transmission
Subject categories Neurophysiology


Key points: Trans-spinal DC stimulation affects both postsynaptic neurons and the presynaptic axons providing input to these neurons. In the present study, we show that intraspinally applied cathodal current replicates the effects of trans-spinal direct current stimulation in deeply anaesthetized animals and affects spinal neurons both during the actual current application and during a post-polarization period. Presynaptic effects of local cathodal polarization were expressed in an increase in the excitability of skin afferents (in the dorsal horn) and group Ia afferents (in motor nuclei), both during and at least 30 min after DC application. However, although the postsynaptic facilitation (i.e. more effective) activation of motoneurons by stimuli applied in a motor nucleus was very potent during local DC application, it was only negligible once DC was discontinued. The results suggest that the prolonged effects of cathodal polarization are primarily associated with changes in synaptic transmission. The present study aimed to compare presynaptic and postsynaptic actions of direct current polarization in the spinal cord, focusing on DC effects on primary afferents and motoneurons. To reduce the directly affected spinal cord region, a weak polarizing direct current (0.1-0.3 μA) was applied locally in deeply anaesthetized cats and rats; within the hindlimb motor nuclei in the caudal lumbar segments, or in the dorsal horn within the terminal projection area of low threshold skin afferents. Changes in the excitability of primary afferents activated by intraspinal stimuli (20-50 μA) were estimated using increases or decreases in compound action potentials recorded from the dorsal roots or peripheral nerves as their measure. Changes in the postsynaptic actions of the afferents were assessed from intracellularly recorded monosynaptic EPSPs in hindlimb motoneurons and monosynaptic extracellular field potentials (evoked by group Ia afferents in motor nuclei, or by low threshold cutaneous afferents in the dorsal horn). The excitability of motoneurons activated by intraspinal stimuli was assessed using intracellular records or motoneuronal discharges recorded from a ventral root or a muscle nerve. Cathodal polarization was found to affect motoneurons and afferents providing input to them to a different extent. The excitability of both was markedly increased during DC application, although post-polarization facilitation was found to involve presynaptic afferents and some of their postsynaptic actions, but only negligibly motoneurons themselves. Taken together, these results indicate that long-lasting post-polarization facilitation of spinal activity induced by locally applied cathodal current primarily reflects the facilitation of synaptic transmission.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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