We tested the possibility that the trigeminoparabrachial tract (VcPbT), a projection thought to be importantly involved in nociception, might also contribute to sensation of itch. In anesthetized rats, 47 antidromically identified VcPbT neurons with receptive fields involving the cheek were characterized for their responses to graded mechanical and thermal stimuli and intradermal injections of pruritogens (serotonin, chloroquine, and _-alanine), partial pruritogens (histamine and capsaicin), and an algogen (mustard oil). All pruriceptive VcPbT neurons were responsive to mechanical stimuli, and more than half were additionally responsive to thermal stimuli. The majority of VcPbT neurons were activated by injections of serotonin, histamine, capsaicin, and/or mustard oil. A subset of neurons were inhibited by injection of chloroquine. The large majority of VcPbT neurons projected to the ipsilateral and/or contralateral external lateral parabrachial and Kölliker-Fuse nuclei, as evidenced by antidromic mapping techniques. Analyses of mean responses and spike-timing dynamics of VcPbT neurons suggested clear differences in firing rates between responses to noxious and pruritic stimuli. Comparisons between the present data and those previously obtained from trigeminothalamic tract (VcTT) neurons demonstrated several differences in responses to some pruritogens. For example, responses of VcPbT neurons to injection of serotonin often endured for nearly an hour and showed a delayed peak in discharge rate. In contrast, responses of VcTT neurons endured for roughly 20 min and no delayed peak of firing was noted. Thus the longer duration responses to 5-HT and the delay in peak firing of VcPbT neurons better matched behavioral responses to stimulation in awake rats than did those of VcTT neurons. The results indicate that VcPbT neurons may have important roles in the signaling of itch as well as pain.

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doi.org/10.1152/jn.00596.2014, hdl.handle.net/1765/91225
Journal of Neurophysiology
Department of Neuroscience

Jansen, N. A., & Giesler, G. J. (2015). Response characteristics of pruriceptive and nociceptive trigeminoparabrachial tract neurons in the rat. Journal of Neurophysiology, 113(1), 58–70. doi:10.1152/jn.00596.2014