Journal of Neurophysiology

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Effects of 17β-Estradiol on Responses of Viscerosomatic Convergent Thalamic Neurons in the Ovariectomized Female Rat

William R. Reed, Harpreet K. Chadha, Charles H. Hubscher


Ovarian hormones have been shown to exert multiple effects on CNS function and viscerosomatic convergent activity. Ovariectomized (OVX) female rats were used in the present study to examine the long-term effects of proestrus levels of 17β-estradiol (EB) delivered by a 60-day time-released subcutaneous pellet on the response properties of viscerosomatic convergent thalamic neurons. In addition, avoidance thresholds to mechanical stimulation for one of the convergent somatic territories, the trunk, was assessed using an electro–von Frey anesthesiometer before and at the end of the 6-wk post-OVX/implant period prior to the terminal electrophysiological experiments, which were done under urethane anesthesia. Rats implanted with an EB-containing pellet, relative to placebo controls, demonstrated 1) altered thalamic response frequencies and thresholds for cervix and vaginal but not colon stimulation; 2) some response variations for just the lateral group of thalamic subnuclei; and 3) altered thalamic response frequencies and thresholds for trunk stimulation. Thalamic response thresholds for trunk pressure in EB versus placebo rats were consistent with the avoidance thresholds obtained from the same groups. In addition, EB replacement affected visceral and somatic thresholds in opposite ways (i.e., reproductive-related structures were less sensitive to pressure, whereas somatic regions showed increased sensitivity). These results have obvious reproductive advantages (i.e., decreased reproductive organ sensitivity for copulation and increased trunk sensitivity for lordosis posturing), as well as possible clinical implications in women suffering from chronic pelvic pain syndromes and/or neuropathic pain.

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