In pentobarbital sodium-anesthetized rats, we evaluated changes in cortical evoked potentials (EPs) associated with electrical and chemical stimulation of nucleus raphe magnus (NRM). A condition-test (C-T) paradigm was used. Cortical EPs were produced by test stimuli delivered to a hindpaw or the thalamic ventral posterior lateral nucleus (VPL; electrical stimulation), or by photic stimulation of the eyes or electrical stimulation of contralateral homotopical cortex (transcallosal EPs). These test stimuli were then preceded by electrical or chemical conditioning stimulation (CS) delivered to NRM through a stereotaxically implanted electrode or injection cannula, respectively. Effects of CS on EPs produced by the test stimuli were characterized. Electrical CS preceding a test stimulus delivered to the foot reduced the amplitude of EPs at thresholds as low as 10-25 μA. The magnitude of EP reduction was dependent on CS intensity, frequency, and the C-T interval. Optimal parameters were trains of 10 pulses (400 Hz) delivered at a C-T interval of 5-10 ms. Injection of glutamate and lidocaine into NRM demonstrated that these effects were due to activation of NRM neurons and not to current spread to medial lemniscus (ML). NRM CS also reduced cortical EPs produced by test stimulation in VPL but did not alter EPs from visual stimulation or from electrical stimulation of contralateral homotopical cortex. These findings suggest that NRM CS attenuates EPs by inhibiting thalamic or thalamocortical afferent activity. Because NRM CS affected all components of the cortical EPs, the effect appears to involve alteration of general sensory activity and is not nociception specific. Even in the absence of nociceptive selectivity, the effect represents modulation of supraspinal afferent activity, in addition to well-documented descending inhibitory influences, by stimulation-produced antinociception.
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