2015 Volume 91 Issue 10 Pages 560-576
This study focuses on the structure and function of the primary sensory neurons that innervate vibrissal follicles in the rat. Both the peripheral and central terminations, as well as their firing properties were identified using intracellular labelling and recording in trigeminal ganglia in vivo. Fifty-one labelled neurons terminating peripherally, as club-like, Merkel, lanceolate, reticular or spiny endings were identified by their morphology. All neurons responded robustly to air puff stimulation applied to the vibrissal skin. Neurons with club-like endings responded with the highest firing rates; their peripheral processes rarely branched between the cell body and their terminal tips. The central branches of these neurons displayed abundant collaterals terminating within all trigeminal nuclei. Analyses of three-dimensional reconstructions reveal a palisade arrangement of club-like endings bound to the ringwulst by collagen fibers. Our morphological findings suggest that neurons with club-like endings sense mechanical aspects related to the movement of the ringwulst and convey this information to all trigeminal nuclei in the brainstem.