Experimental muscle pain produces central modulation of proprioceptive signals arising from jaw muscle spindles

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The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of intramuscular injection with hypertonic saline, a well-established experimental model for muscle pain, on central processing of proprioceptive input from jaw muscle spindle afferents. Fifty-seven cells were recorded from the medial edge of the subnucleus interpolaris (Vi) and the adjacent parvicellular reticular formation from 11 adult cats. These cells were characterized as central units receiving jaw muscle spindle input based on their responses to electrical stimulation of the masseter nerve, muscle palpation and jaw stretch. Forty-five cells, which were successfully tested with 5% hypertonic saline, were categorized as either dynamic-static (DS) (n=25) or static (S) (n=20) neurons based on their responses to different speeds and amplitudes of jaw movement. Seventy-six percent of the cells tested with an ipsilateral injection of hypertonic saline showed a significant modulation of mean firing rates (MFRs) during opening and/or holding phases. The most remarkable saline-induced change was a significant reduction of MFR during the hold phase in S units (100%, 18/18 modulated). Sixty-nine percent of the DS units (11/16 modulated) also showed significant changes in MFRs limited to the hold phase. However, in the DS neurons, the MFRs increased in seven units and decreased in four units. Finally, five DS neurons showed significant changes of MFRs during both opening and holding phases. Injections of isotonic saline into the ipsilateral masseter muscle had little effect, but hypertonic saline injections made into the contralateral masseter muscle produced similar results to ipsilateral injections with hypertonic saline. These results unequivocally demonstrate that intramuscular injection with an algesic substance, sufficient to produce muscle pain, produces significant changes in the proprioceptive properties of the jaw movement-related neurons. Potential mechanisms involved in saline-induced changes in the proprioceptive signals and functional implications of the changes are discussed.

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