Nociceptors are sensory neurons that detect harmful, or potentially harmful, stimuli, and can become sensitized following injury or repetitive stimulation. When sensitized, nociceptors often exhibit activity in the absence of apparent or additional stimulation, called ongoing (or spontaneous) activity (OA). In this report, we provide evidence that OA in nociceptors can be caused by the stimuli typically used to identify and characterize the neuron, which must by definition be noxious and therefore potentially sensitizing. Such OA caused by the experimental methodology can confound interpretation. In our nerve inflammation model, OA can potentially arise from multiple sites, including the lesion site and the receptive field. We provide evidence that the OA rate recorded during these experiments may be related to the site and cause of OA generation. We suggest that there are two types of OA, characterized by their rates. Very slow rates of ongoing activity (<0.2 Hz) are likely to arise from the receptive field and may indicate sensitization during the experiment. Faster rates are likely to arise from the nerve trunk, i.e. the neuritis, or the neuronal cell body. Without appropriate methodological consideration, interpretations of results from such studies of nociceptor function may be methodologically confounded.
Bove, Geoffrey M. and Dilley, Andrew, "The Conundrum Of Sensitization When Recording From Nociceptors" (2010). Biomedical Sciences Faculty Publications. 9.