Pflügers Archiv

, Volume 398, Issue 1, pp 33–40 | Cite as

Encoding of visceral noxious stimuli in the discharge patterns of visceral afferent fibres from the colon

  • H. Blumberg
  • Petra Haupt
  • W. Jänig
  • W. Kohler


Afferent fibres, in the inferior splanchnic nerves and lumbar white rami, which supply the colon and its mesentery in the cat, were investigated for their responses to distension and contraction of the colon and to local pressure applied to colon and its mesentery. 1) 63% (177 out of 287) of the axons had resting activity (median 0.3 imp/s). These axons were either unmyelinated (conduction velocity below 2 m/s) or thin myelinated (conduction velocity below 18 m/s). Most axons without resting activity (N=95 out of 106 axons) conducted at less than 1.4 m/s, and most were probably sympathetic efferents. 2) 76 out of 80 afferent units with resting activity (95%) and 8 out of 27 units without (30%) were excited by distension of the colon. The thresholds were largely at intraluminal pressures of around 25 mm Hg or higher. 3) Most afferent units (87%) responded with an increased steady state discharge throughout the distension with or without initial dynamic response. The rest of the afferent units responded only with a transient discharged to distension. 4) Most afferent units reacted in a graded manner to variable intraluminal pressures. 5) In only 43% of the distension-sensitive afferent units could mechanoreceptive sites be located on the wall of the colon or in the mesentery. The majority of the afferent units had one mechanoreceptive site only, some had two. 6) Afferent units reacting to colon distension were also excited by contraction of the colon. 7) The excitability spectrum of visceral afferent fibres in the inferior splanchnic nerves, which are activated by colon distension, suggests that these units are involved in visceral nociception from the colon.

Key words

Visceral afferents supplying the colon Inferior splanchnic nerves Response pattern to distension and contraction of the colon Conduction velocities Cat Visceral nociception 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Bentley FH, Smithwick RH (1940) Visceral pain produced by balloon distension of the jejunum. Lancet 2:389–391Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Blumberg H, Haupt P, Jänig W, Kohler W (1980) Response pattern of visceral afferents from the cat's colon upon noxious and nonnoxious stimuli. Pflügers Arch 384:R31Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Burges PR, Pearl ER (1973) Cutaneous mechanoreceptors and nociceptors. In: Iggo A (ed) Somatosensory system, Handbook of sensory physiology, vol II. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 29–78Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cannon B (1933) A method of stimulating autonomic nerves in the unanesthetized cat with observations on the motor and sensory effects. Am J Physiol 105:366–372Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Casati R, Lombardi F, Malliani A (1979) Afferent sympathetic unmyelinated fibres with left ventricular endings in cats. J Physiol 292:135–148Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cervero F (1980) Deep and visceral pain. In: Kosterlitz HW, Terenius LY (eds) Pain and society. Dahlem-Konferenzen. Verlag Chemie, Weinheim pp 263–281Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cervero F (1982) Afferent activity evoked by natural stimulation of the biliary system in the ferret. Pain 13:137–151Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Crousillat J, Ranieri F (1980) Mecanorécepteurs splanchniques de la voie biliaire et de son péritoine. Exp Brain Res 40:146–153Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Downman CBB, McSwiney BA, Vass CCN (1948) Sensitivity of the small intestine. J Physiol 107:97–106Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Floyd K, Hick VE, Morrison JFB (1976) Mechanosensitive afferent units in the hypogastric nerve of the cat. J Physiol 259:457–471Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Floyd K, Morrison JFB (1974) Splanchnic mechanoreceptors in the dog. Quart J Exp Physiol 59:361–366Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Goldscheider A (1920) Das Schmerzproblem. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Goldscheider A (1926) Schmerz. In: Bethe A, Bergmann Gv, Embden G, Ellinger A (eds) Handbuch der normalen und pathophysiologischen Physiologie. Band 11. Receptionsorgane I. Springer, Berlin, pp 181–202Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Handwerker HO, Zimmermann M (1976) Schmerz und vegetatives Nervensystem. In: Sturm A, Birkmayer W (eds) Klinische Pathologie des vegetativen Nervensystems. Band I. Fischer, Stuttgart, pp 468–497Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Haupt P, Jänig W, Kohler W (1981) How are stimuli which are harmful to the colon and elicit pain in man encoded in the discharge pattern of visceral thoracolumbar afferents. Pain, Suppl 1:88Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Haupt P, Jänig W, Kohler W (1983) Response pattern of visceral afferent fibres, supplying the colon, upon chemical and mechanical stimuli. Pflügers Arch 398:41–47Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hertz AF (1911) The sensibility of the alimentary canal in health and disease. Lectures I–III. Lancet 1:1051–1056, 1119–1124, 1187–1193Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kinsella VJ (1940) Sensibility in the abdomen. Br J Surg 27:449–463Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Leek BF (1972) Abdominal visceral receptors. In: Neil E (ed) Enteroreceptors, Handbook of sensory physiology, vol III/1. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 113–160Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Liavag J (1967) Acute mesenteric vascular insufficiency. Acta Chir Scand 133:631–639Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lim KS (1960) Visceral receptors and visceral pain. Ann NY Acad Sci 86:73–89Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lipkin M, Sleisenger MH (1958) Studies of visceral pain: measurements of stimulus intensity and duration associated with the onset of pain in esophagus, ileum and colon. J Clin Invest 37:28–34Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lombardi F, Della Bella P, Casati R, Malliani A (1981) Effects of intracoronary administration of bradykinin on the impulse activity of afferent sympathetic unmyelinated fibers with left ventricular endings in the cat. Circ Res 48:69–75Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Malliani A, Lombardi F (1982) Consideration of the fundamental mechanisms eliciting cardiac pain. Am Heart J 103:575–578Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Moore RM (1938) Some experimental observations relating to visceral pain. Surg 3:534–555Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Moore RM, Singleton AO (1933) Studies of pain-sensibility of arteries. II. Peripheral paths of afferent neurones from the arteries of the extremities and of the abdominal viscera. Am J Physiol 104: 267–275Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Morrison JFB (1977) The afferent innervation of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Brooks FB, Evers PW (eds) Nerves and the gut. Charles B Slack, Inc., Thorofare, NJ, pp 297–322Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Morrison JFB (1981) Sensory processing in spinal afferent pathways from the bladder. In: Grastyan E, Molnár P (eds) Sensory functions. Adv Physiol Sci, vol 16. Akadémiai Kiado, Budapest; Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp 325–333Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Polland WS, Bloomfield AL (1931) Experimental referred pain from the gastrointestinal tract. Part II: Stomach, duodenum and colon. J Clin Invest 10:435–473Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Propping (1909) Zur Frage der Sensibilität der Bauchhöhle. Beitr Klin Chir 63:690–710Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ranieri F, Mei N, Crousillat J (1973) Splanchnic afferents arising from gastro-intestinal and peritoneal mechanoreceptors. Exp Brain Res 16:276–290Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ritter C (1909) Zur Frage der Sensibilität der Bauchorgane. Zentralbl Chir 35:609–615Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Sherrington CS (1906) The integrative action of the nervous system. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Uchida Y, Murao S (1974) Excitation of afferent cardiac sympathetic nerve fibres during coronary occlusion. Am J Physiol 226:1094–1099Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    White JC (1943) Sensory innervation of the viscera. Studies on visceral afferent neurones in man based on neurosurgical procedures for the relief of intractable pain. Res Publ Assoc Res Nerv Ment Dis 23:373–390Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Woodworth RS, Sherrington CS (1904) A pseudaffective reflex and its spinal path. J Physiol 31:234–243Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Blumberg
    • 1
  • Petra Haupt
    • 1
  • W. Jänig
    • 1
  • W. Kohler
    • 1
  1. 1.Physiologisches InstitutUniversität KielKielFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations