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Relevance ofthe callosal transfer in defining the peripheral reactivity of somesthetic cortical neurones

G.M. Innocenti, T. Manzoni, G. Spidalieri


Experiments were performed in 13 chloralose-anaesthetized, curarized cat preparations (monitoring of rectal temperature, heart rate, expired pCO2 and EEG), in order to ascertain whether, and to what extent, the reactivity to ipsilateral skin shocks of the neurones of the anterior ectosylvian and anterior suprasylvian gyri (AEG and ASG, respectively) is dependent on the callosal output of the somatosensory areas of the contralateral hemisphere. Indeed, we knew from previous experiments that a high proportion of AEG and ASG neurones having bilateral peripheral receptive fields (PRFs) can be excited by direct stimulation of the contralateral homonymous areas, and that the callosal fibres originating in the latter carry somesthetic impulses related to contralateral PRFs. A preliminary analysis was carried out on the amplitude and latency relationships between the evoked potentials (EP) recorded simultaneously from the two hemispheres and from the corpus callosum (CC) following stimulation of the forepaw of one side. The results obtained showed good correlations between the onset and development of the EPs picked up from the hemisphere ipsilateral to the stimulated skin, on the one hand, and onset and development of the EPs recorded from the contralateral hemisphere and the corpus callosum, on the other. At a further stage of the experiments, the EPs elicited upon ipsilateral and contralateral skin shocks in the AEG-ASG area have been recorded and averaged before, during and after the reversible inactivation of callosal somesthetic transmission. This was achieved by applying polarizing currents (0.2-1 mA) to the rostral portion of the CC, adequacy and reversibility of this method having been tested by observing, respectively, suppression and prompt restoration of transcallosal EPs and of the asynaptic spiking produced by cortical cells when antidromically invaded from contralateral homotopic cortex. It was seen that during CC blockade the EPs elicited in the AEG-ASG areas did not show any change either in amplitude or time-course if brought about by contralateral peripheral stimulation, whereas those evoked by ipsilateral skin shocks exhibited significant reduction, which was related to the strength of CC polarization and to the reduction of transcallosal EPs. In control experiments similar effects were observed after ablation of somatosensory areas of the hemisphere which send off somesthetic callosal impulses, whereas strychninization of these areas caused effects opposite in sign, i.e., enhancement of the ipsilateral but not of the contralateral EPs in the areas of the untreated hemisphere. By testing the effects of CC polarization on single AEG-ASG neurones, it was observed that the responses of units linked only with contralateral PRFs (Group I; 7 units tested) were unaffected by callosal polarization. The discharges of neurones provided with wide and bilateral PRFs (Group II; 27 units tested) were not affected if elicited by contralateral PRF shocks but were deeply impaired (in 11 neurones out the 27) when provoked by ipsilateral PRF stimulation. The effect consisted chiefly of the disappearance of the first high peak of the PSTHs, and when recording intracellularly graded events, it was mirrored by a large decrease of the postsynaptic excitatory potentials elicited in Group II neurones by ipsilateral PRF shocks. A late scattered histographic component was identified in the PSTHs of such cells, which did not appear to be significantly altered during CC blockade. These effects were observed on the ipsilateral responses of 11 out of the 27 Group II neurones so tested whereas the ipsilateral PSTHs of the remaining 16 Group II neurones either did not undergo significant changes during the callosal blockade or escaped evaluation because of high spontaneous shifts of neural responsiveness. The results are discussed mainly with a view to the possible functional role of the specific somesthetic callosal fibres in defining ipsilateral reactivity for the wide-field cells of the AEG-ASG area.

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