Functional development of mechanoreceptive neurons innervating the glabrous skin in postnatal kittens

  • Beitel R
  • Gibson J
  • Welker W
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We studied single units innervating the glabrous forepaw skin of 35 domestic kittens ranging in age from 1 to 52 postnatal days. Three aspects of coding were emphasized: (a) size and force thresholds of receptive fields, (b) time course of recovery between stimulus presentations, and (c) electrical conduction properties of the afferent nerve fibers. Receptive field (RF) size and force thresholds were (a) positively correlated with age for palmar but not digital RFs, and (b) were significantly larger on palm than on digits. Unit responsiveness was highly dependent on intertrial interval, complete recovery requiring at least 30 sec. Conduction velocity increased more rapidly than nerve fiber length, thus conduction time decreased with age. Refractory period decreased with age, but the conduction velocities of sequential spikes were proportional, regardless of age. These changes which we observed can more readily be ascribed to alterations of the mechanical properties of skin and conduction properties of nerve fibers than to changes in the coding mechanisms themselves. © 1977.

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  • Ralph E. Beitel

  • John M. Gibson

  • Wally I. Welker

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