Firing characteristics of deep dorsal horn neurons after acute spinal transection during administration of agonists for 5-HT1B/1D and NMDA receptors

Theeradej Thaweerattanasinp, Charles J. Heckman, Vicki M. Tysseling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in a loss of serotonin (5-HT) to the spinal cord and a loss of inhibition to deep dorsal horn (DDH) neurons, which produces an exaggerated excitatory drive to motoneurons. The mechanism of this excitatory drive could involve the DDH neurons triggering long excitatory postsynaptic potentials in motoneurons, which may ultimately drive muscle spasms. Modifying the activity of DDH neurons with drugs such as NMDA or the 5-HT1B/1D receptor agonist zolmitriptan could have a large effect on motoneuron activity and, therefore, on muscle spasms. In this study, we characterize the firing properties of DDH neurons after acute spinal transection in adult mice during administration of zolmitriptan and NMDA, using the in vitro sacral cord preparation and extracellular electrophysiology. DDH neurons can be categorized into three major types with distinct evoked and spontaneous firing characteristics: burst (bursting), simple (single spiking), and tonic (spontaneously tonic firing) neurons. The burst neurons likely contribute to muscle spasm mechanisms because of their bursting behavior. Only the burst neurons show significant changes in their firing characteristics during zolmitriptan and NMDA administration. Zolmitriptan suppresses the burst neurons by reducing their evoked spikes, burst duration, and spontaneous firing rate. Conversely, NMDA facilitates them by enhancing their burst duration and spontaneous firing rate. These results suggest that zolmitriptan may exert its antispastic effect on the burst neurons via activation of 5-HT1B/1D receptors, whereas activation of NMDA receptors may facilitate the burst neurons in contributing to muscle spasm mechanisms following SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1644-1653
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Deep dorsal horn neurons
  • N-methyl-Daspartate
  • Serotonin
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology

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