Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 174–180 | Cite as

Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) involve trigeminothalamic and spinothalamic neurones in the rat

  • A. H. Dickenson
  • D. Le Bars


Fifty-eight lumbar dorsal horn and trigeminal nucleus caudalis neurones which could be activated by both innocuous and noxious peripheral stimuli have been recorded in the anaesthetized rat. Using transcutaneous electrical stimulation to produce A and C fibre activity in these neurones from the hindpaw or facial receptive fields the ability of a distant noxious (mechanical or thermal) stimulus applied to the nose, tail, ears and paws to inhibit the neuronal activity was demonstrated. These effects have been termed diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). DNIC produced powerful long-lasting inhibitions on all units studied in accordance with our previous results.

Approximately 40% of these convergent neurones could be antidromically activated from the contralateral ventrobasal thalamus. Similar neuronal characteristics, effects of DNIC and proportions of projection cells were found in both the dorsal horn and trigeminal complex. However, the spinothalamic tract cells conducted more rapidly than the trigeminothalamic neurones.

These results indicate that DNIC can produce comparable effects on the thalamic representation of the efferent activity of these spinal cord and trigeminal neurones. The possible role of DNIC in nociception is discussed.

Key words

Rat Nociception Spinothalamic neurones Trigeminothalamic neurones Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albe-Fessard D, Levante A, Lamour Y (1974) Origin of spinothalamic and spinoreticular pathways in cats and monkeys. In: Bonica JJ (ed) Advances in neurology, vol 4. Raven Press, New York, p 157Google Scholar
  2. Berlin L, Goodell H, Wolff HG (1958) Relation of pain perception and central inhibitory effect of noxious stimulation to phenomenon of extinction of pain. AMA Arch Neurol Psychiatry 80: 533–543Google Scholar
  3. Brown AG, Rethelyi M (1981) Spinal cord sensation. Scottish Academic Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  4. Carstens E, Trevino DL (1976) Laminar origins of spinothalamic projections in the cat as determined by retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase. J Comp Neurol 182: 151–166Google Scholar
  5. Chung JM, Kenshalo DR Jr, Gerhart KD, Willis WD (1979) Excitation of primate spinothalamic tract neurons by cutaneous C fiber volleys. J Neurophysiol 42: 1354–1369Google Scholar
  6. Dickenson AH, Le Bars D (1982) Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) can modulate rat trigemino- and spinothalamic convergent neurones. J Physiol (Lond) 325: 81PGoogle Scholar
  7. Dickenson AH, Le Bars D, Besson JM (1980) Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). Effects on trigeminal nucleus caudalis neurones in the rat. Brain Res 200: 293–305Google Scholar
  8. Duncker K (1937) Some preliminary experiments on the mutual influence of pains. Psychol Forsch 21: 311–326Google Scholar
  9. Erzurumlu RS, Bates CA, Killackey HP (1980) Differential organization of thalamic projection cells in the brain stem trigeminal complex of the rat. Brain Res 198: 427–433Google Scholar
  10. Fukushima T, Kerr FWL (1979) Organization of trigeminothalamic tracts and other thalamic afferent systems of the brainstem in the rat: Presence of gelatinosa neurons with thalamic connections. J Comp Neurol 183: 169–184Google Scholar
  11. Gerhart KD, Yezierski RP, Giesler GJ Jr, Willis WD (1982) Inhibitory receptive fields of primate spinothalamic tract cells. J Neurophysiol 46: 1309–1375Google Scholar
  12. Giesler GJ Jr, Menetry D, Basbaum AI (1979) Differential origins of spinothalamic tract projections to medial and lateral thalamus in the rat. J Comp Neurol 184: 107–126Google Scholar
  13. Giesler GJ Jr, Menetry DM, Guilbaud G, Besson JM (1976) Lumbar cord neurons at the origin of the spinothalamic tract in the rat. Brain Res 118: 320–324Google Scholar
  14. Giesler GJ Jr, Yezierski RP, Gerhart KD, Willis WD (1981) Spinothalamic tract neurons that project to medial and/or lateral thalamic nuclei evidence for a physiologically novel population of spinal cord neurons. J Neurophysiol 46: 1285–1308Google Scholar
  15. Gobel S, Falls WM, Hockfield S (1977) The division of the dorsal and ventral horns of the mammalian caudal medulla into eight layers using anatomical criteria. In: Anderson DJ, Matthews BJ (eds) Pain in the trigeminal region. Elsevier/North Holland Amsterdam, pp 443–453Google Scholar
  16. Hayes RL, Price DD, Dubner R (1979) Behavioural and physiological studies of sensory coding and modulation of trigeminal nociceptive input. In: Bonica JJ, Albe-Fessard D (eds) Advances in pain research, vol 3. Raven Press, New York, p 219Google Scholar
  17. Kraus E, Le Bars D, Besson JM (1981) Behavioural confirmation of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) and evidence for a role of endogenous opiates. Brain Res 206: 495–499Google Scholar
  18. Le Bars D, Dickenson AH, Besson JM (1979a) Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). I. Effect on dorsal horn convergent neurones. Pain 6: 283–304Google Scholar
  19. Le Bars D, Dickenson AH, Besson JM (1979b) Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). II. Lack of effect on non-convergent neurones, supraspinal involvement and theoretical implications. Pain 6: 305–327Google Scholar
  20. Le Bars D, Chitour D, Clot AM (1981a) The encoding of thermal stimuli by diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). Brain Res 230: 394–399Google Scholar
  21. Le Bars D, Chitour D, Kraus E, Clot AM, Dickenson AH, Besson JM (1981b) The effect of systemic morphine upon diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC) in the rat: Evidence for a lifting of certain descending inhibitory controls of dorsal horn convergent neurones. Brain Res 215: 257–274Google Scholar
  22. Lund RD, Webster KE (1967) Thalamic afferents from the spinal cord and trigeminal nuclei — an experimental anatomical study in the rat. J Comp Neurol 130: 313–328Google Scholar
  23. Mehler WR (1969) Some neurological species differences — a posteriori. Ann NY Acad Sci 167: 424–468Google Scholar
  24. Milne RJ, Foreman RD, Giesler GJ, jr, Willis WD (1981) Convergence of cutaneous and pelvic visceral nociceptive inputs onto primate spinothalamic neurons. Pain 11: 163–183Google Scholar
  25. Melzack R (1975) Prolonged relief of pain by brief, intense transcutaneous somatic stimulation. Pain 1: 357–373Google Scholar
  26. Pellegrino LJ, Pellegrino AS, Cushman AJ (1979) A stereotaxic atlas of the rat brain. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Price DD, Dubner R, Hu JW (1976) Trigeminothalamic neurons in nucleus caudalis responsive to tactile, thermal and nociceptive stimulation of the monkey's face. J Neurophysiol 39: 936–952Google Scholar
  28. Price DD, Mayer DJ (1974) Physiological laminar organization of the dorsal horn of M. mulatto. Brain Res 79: 321–325Google Scholar
  29. Ramón y Cajal S (1909) Histologie du système nerveuxGoogle Scholar
  30. Saporta S, Kruger L (1979) The organization of projections to selected points of somatosensory cortex from the cat ventrobasal complex. Brain Res 178: 279–295Google Scholar
  31. Stewart WA, King RB (1963) Fiber projections from the nucleus caudalis of the spinal trigeminal nucleus. J Comp Neurol 121: 271–286Google Scholar
  32. Trevino DL, Maunz RA, Bryan RN, Willis WD (1972) Location of cells of origin of the spinothalamic tract in the lumbar enlargement of the cat. Exp Neurol 34: 64–77Google Scholar
  33. Willis WD, Coggeshall RE (1978) Sensory mechanisms of the spinal cord. John Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. H. Dickenson
    • 1
  • D. Le Bars
    • 2
  1. 1.National Institute for Medical ResearchMill HillUK
  2. 2.Unité de Recherches de Neurophysiologie PharmacologiqueINSERM U161ParisFrance

Personalised recommendations