Laser-evoked cortical responses in freely-moving rats reflect the activation of C-fibre afferent pathways

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The limited success of translating basic animal findings into effective clinical treatments of pain can be partly ascribed to the use of sub-optimal models. Murine models of pain often consist in recording (1) threshold responses (like the tail-flick reflex) elicited by (2) non-nociceptive specific inputs in (3) anaesthetized animals. The direct cortical recording of laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) elicited by stimuli of graded energies in freely-moving rodents avoids these three important pitfalls, and has thus the potential of improving such translation. Murine LEPs are classically reported to consist of two distinct components, reflecting the activity of Aδ- and C-fibre afferent pathways. However, we have recently demonstrated that the so-called "Aδ-LEPs" in fact reflect the activation of the auditory system by laser-generated ultrasounds. Here we used ongoing white noise to avoid the confound represented by the early auditory response, and thereby comprehensively characterized the physiological properties of C-fibre LEPs recorded directly from the exposed surface of the rat brain. Stimulus-response functions indicated that response amplitude is positively related to the stimulus energy, as well as to nocifensive behavioral score. When displayed using average reference, murine LEPs consist of three distinct deflections, whose polarity, order, and topography are surprisingly similar to human LEPs. The scalp topography of the early N1 wave is somatotopically-organized, likely reflecting the activity of the primary somatosensory cortex, while topographies of the later N2 and P2 waves are more centrally distributed. These results indicate that recording LEPs in freely-moving rats is a valid model to improve the translation of animal results to human physiology and pathophysiology.




Xia, X. L., Peng, W. W., Iannetti, G. D., & Hu, L. (2016). Laser-evoked cortical responses in freely-moving rats reflect the activation of C-fibre afferent pathways. NeuroImage, 128, 209–217.

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