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Long-term effects of direct current are reproduced by intermittent depolarization of myelinated nerve fibers

Journal article
Authors Marcin Baczyk
Elzbieta Jankowska
Published in Journal of Neurophysiology
Volume 120
Issue 3
Pages 1173-1185
ISSN 0022-3077
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Pages 1173-1185
Language en
Keywords direct current, electrical interactions, epidural stimulation, nerve fibers, spinal cord, spinal plasticity, lumbosacral spinal-cord, ii muscle afferents, dorsal-horn, epidural, stimulation, brain-stimulation, plasticity, cat, humans, interneurons, excitability, Neurosciences & Neurology, Physiology, cles jc, 1962, journal of physiology-london, v160, p62
Subject categories Neurosciences


Direct current (DC) potently increases the excitability of myelinated afferent fibers in the dorsal columns, both during DC polarization of these fibers and during a considerable (>1 h) postpolarization period. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether similarly long-lasting changes in the excitability of myelinated nerve fibers in the dorsal columns may be evoked by field potentials following stimulation of peripheral afferents and by subthreshold epidurally applied current pulses. The experiments were performed in deeply anesthetized rats. The effects were monitored by changes in nerve volleys evoked in epidurally stimulated hindlimb afferents and in the synaptic actions of these afferents. Both were found to be facilitated during as well as following stimulation of a skin nerve and during as well as following epidurally applied current pulses of 5- to 10-ms duration. The facilitation occurring <= 2 min after skin nerve stimulation could be linked to both primary afferent depolarization and large dorsal horn field potentials, whereas the subsequent changes (up to 1 h) were attributable to effects of the field potentials. The findings lead to the conclusion that the modulation of spinal activity evoked by DC does not require long-lasting polarization and that relatively short current pulses and intrinsic field potentials may contribute to plasticity in spinal activity. These results suggest the possibility of enhancing the effects of epidural stimulation in human subjects by combining it with polarizing current pulses and peripheral afferent stimulation and not only with continuous DC. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The aim of this study was to define conditions under which a long-term. increase is evoked in the excitability of myelinated nerve fibers. The results demonstrate that a potent and long-lasting increase in the excitability of afferent fibers traversing the dorsal columns may be induced by synaptically evoked intrinsic field as well as by epidurally applied intermittent current pulses. They thus provide a new means for the facilitation of the effects of epidural stimulation.

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