Microneurography was performed in median nerve sensory fascicles with concentric needle electrodes and with conventional tungsten microneedles. The latter electrodes preferentially recorded activity from the myelinated fibres in the whole fascicle. By contrast, due to its special design, a concentric needle can record activity selectively from even a small part of a fascicle. High amplitude signals in C fibres can be discriminated close to Schwann cells that envelope unmyelinated axons. Apart from being biased for activity in thin fibres, the concentric needles can also record signals from nearby myelinated fibres. The palmar receptive fields of such fibre groups were not congruent with the areas traditionally attributed to multiunit skin afferents in humans, namely the innervation zone(s) of one or two adjacent digital nerve(s). Instead, the multiunit fields often comprised small parts of a digital nerve innervation area, frequently only the pulp of a finger. Single units were always localised within previously screened multiunit areas. Contrary to some previously accepted tenets it is probable that single unit activity in myelinated fibres in these studies is recorded extra-axonally near to a node of Ranvier. The findings also suggest the presence of a somatotopy in human limb nerve fascicles, comparable to that previously established in the spinal cord and the somatosensory cortex.
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