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Recordings from single nerve fibers in humans (microneurography)

The recording from single nociceptors with intraneural microelectrodes (microneurography) allows a direct examination of sensory and axonal fiber characteristics in awake humans. Using this technique, mechano-insensitive ("silent") chemo-nociceptors were described for the first time in humans. Their role in the transmission of an axon reflex erythema, in the development of central sensitization and their contribution to neuropathic pain has been well established. A subgroup of these fibers is further responsible for histamine-induced itch.

Classically, C-nociceptors are classified according to their sensory properties as they cluster in functional subclasses of C-fibers without considerable overlap. Noteworthy, also the axonal properties of these fiber classes can be used for classification according their responsiveness to high frequent stimuli or slowly depolarizing ramp currents.

The aim of microneurography is to detect changes in the axonal and sensory properties of nociceptors that contribute to hypersensitivity. Experiments of this kind are also performed in pain patients, revealing those axonal changes that are of clinical relevance.