Electrophysiological and histological techniques were used to trace sensory pathways for stretch mechanoreceptor fibres from the distal colon to dorsal root ganglia. Extracellular and intracellular recording techniques revealed sensory pathways for mechanoreceptors to the prevertebral sympathetic ganglia but no further centrally. Histological studies involving the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase revealed sensory pathways from the distal colon to the spinal cord, mainly to the level of the second lumbar vertebra. Few (less than 2000) fibres were involved; their perikarya were small (ca. 25 micron). Sensory perikarya in spinal ganglia in the guinea‐pig could be categorized into two populations, F and H cells, after a previously defined nomenclature for murine spinal ganglion cells. F and H cells were distinguished initially by their times to decay by 50% of the action potential. H cells took three times as long to repolarize. F and H cells were distinguished further by their electrical properties including membrane potential, input resistance and amplitude and duration of the after‐potential following the action potential. Both F and H cells showed unusual time‐dependent rectification following either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing current pulses. Threshold currents to show rectification were different for F and H cells. When taken in conjunction with conduction velocities, the electrophysiological evidence may assist in identifying sensory neurones. For example, H cells appeared to have slow conducting (C fibre) axons. From the lack of electrophysiological evidence and limited histological support for major central sensory pathways, it is concluded that stretch mechanoreceptor information from the colon of the guinea‐pig is referred mainly to the prevertebral ganglia with minimal involvement of the spinal cord.
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