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Unmyelinated visceral afferents exhibit frequency dependent action potential broadening while myelinated visceral afferents do not

Neuroscience Letters
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.05.036
  • Integration
  • Action Potential
  • Fiber Conduction Velocity
  • Spike Broadening
  • Biology


Abstract Sensory information arising from visceral organ systems is encoded into action potential trains that propagate along afferent fibers to target nuclei in the central nervous system. These information streams range from tight patterns of action potentials that are well synchronized with the sensory transduction event to irregular, patternless discharge with no clear correlation to the sensory input. In general terms these afferent pathways can be divided into unmyelinated and myelinated fiber types. Our laboratory has a long standing interest in the functional differences between these two types of afferents in terms of the preprocessing of sensory information into action potential trains (synchrony, frequency, duration, etc.), the reflexogenic consequences of this sensory input to the central nervous system and the ionic channels that give rise to the electrophysiological properties of these unique cell types. The aim of this study was to determine whether there were any functional differences in the somatic action potential characteristics of unmyelinated and myelinated vagal afferents in response to different rates of sensory nerve stimulation. Our results showed that activity and frequency-dependent widening of the somatic action potential was quite prominent in unmyelinated but not myelinated vagal afferents. Spike broadening often leads to increased influx of Ca 2+ ions that has been associated with a diverse range of modulatory mechanisms both at the cell body and central synaptic terminations (e.g. increased neurotransmitter release.) We conclude that our observations are indicative of fundamentally different mechanisms for neural integration of sensory information arising from unmyelinated and myelinated vagal afferents.

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