Paired, simultaneous recordings were made in anaesthetized cats from the peripheral and central axons of individual tactile and kinaesthetic sensory fibres. The aim was to determine whether failure of spike propagation occurred at any of the three major axonal branch points in the path to their cuneate target neurones, and whether propagation failure may contribute, along with synaptic transmission failures, to limitations in transmission security observed for the cuneate synaptic relay. No evidence for propagation failure was found at the two major axonal branch points prior to the cuneate nucleus, namely, the T-junction at the dorsal root ganglion, and the major branch point near the cord entry point, even for the highest impulse rates (∼400 impulses s-1) at which these fibres could be driven. However, at the highest impulse rates there was evidence at the central, intracuneate recording site of switching between two states in the terminal axonal spike configuration. This appears to reflect a sporadic propagation failure into one of the terminal branches of the sensory axon. In conclusion, it appears that central impulse propagation over group II sensory axons occurs with complete security through branch points within the dorsal root ganglion and at the spinal cord entry zone. However, at high rates of afferent drive, terminal axonal propagation failure may contribute to the observed decline in transmission security within the cuneate synaptic relay.
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