Antinociception produced by electrical stimulation of vagal afferents: independence of cervical and subdiaphragmatic branches

Sue A. Aicher, Stephen J. Lewis, Alan Randich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Expt. 1 showed that electrical stimulation of either the main dorsal or ventral branch of the subdiaphrrgmatic vagus could produce inhibition of the nociceptive tail-flick reflex in lightly anesthetized rats. The antinociception produced by electrical stimulation of the dorsal subdiaphragmatic vagus was eliminated by resection of the right cervical vagus, but relatively unaffected by resection of the left cervical vagus. The opposite effects for cervical vagal resection were obtained with electrical stimulation of the ventral branch of the subdiaphragmatic vagus. These results indicate that the antinociceptive effects of subdiaphragmatic vagal stimulation are mediated via uncrossed afferents traveling in the cervical vagus to activate an inhibitory spinopetal system. These findings are consistent with the established anatomy of vagal afferents. Expt. 2 showed that degeneration of the dorsal subdiaphragmatic vagus did not alter the threshold intensity of right cervical vagal stimulation necessary to produce inhibition of the tail-flick reflex. These results demonstrate that the antinociceptive effects of cervical vagal stimulation are primarily due to activation of the cardiopulmonary component of the nerve, rather than the subdiaphragmatic component. The second experiment also demonstratedthat the subdiaphragmatic branch of the vagus can be selectively degenerated with ricin while leaving the cervical branch intact, even though the cell bodies of both sets of afferents are located within the nodose ganglion. These data are discussed in terms of vagal afferents and their role in the modulation of nociceptive transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 22 1991



  • Analgesia
  • Pain
  • Rat
  • Ricin
  • Tail-flick reflex
  • Vagus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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