✓ To investigate the mechanism of analgesia noted with electrical stimulation of the thalamic sensory relay nucleus and medial thalamus, modulations of neuronal activities in the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) were studied in response to electrical stimulations of the ventroposterolateral nucleus (VPL) and parafascicular nucleus (Pf) and to peripheral noxious stimulations in rats. Extracellular single-unit activities were recorded from 102 neurons in the PAG and the adjacent area in animals under halothane anesthesia.
A large population (83%) of the PAG neurons reacted to Pf stimulations with a predominantly excitatory response, whereas smaller numbers (43%) responded to VPL stimulations. There was a significant correlation between the response characteristics of Pf and noxious stimulations, whereas no correlation was found between VPL and noxious stimulations. The PAG neurons that were verified antidromically to project to the nucleus raphe magnus showed a similar pattern of response. The excitatory response to the Pf stimulation was partially attenuated by systemic administration of naloxone, whereas that to the VPL stimulation was not affected.
These results suggest that part of the analgesic mechanism of medial thalamus stimulation involves activation of the descending pain suppression system by exciting the PAG neurons through the opioid system, while the analgesia produced by sensory relay nucleus stimulation does not involve the PAG neurons or the opioid system.