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Conventional neuroanatomical methods may fail to demonstrate the presence of axons that are finer than 1 microm in diameter because such processes are near or below the limit of resolution of the light microscope. The presence of such axons can, however, be readily demonstrated by recording. The most easily interpreted type of recording for this purpose is the demonstration of antidromic activation of the cell body following stimulation of the region through which the axon passes. We have exploited this technique in the hypothalamus and have demonstrated the presence of double axonal projections or axons branching very near the cell bodies of the secretory cells of the neurohypophysial system in the rat supraoptic nucleus. We found that a small proportion of supraoptic magnocellular cells could be antidromically activated both from the neural stalk and from elsewhere in the hypothalamus, including the suprachiasmatic nucleus (8 cells of a total of 182) and the antero-ventral third ventricular region (AV3V; 4 of 182 cells) near the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT). Collision of antidromic and orthodromic spikes showed that the cells were clearly antidromically (rather than synaptically, or orthodromically) activated from both sites. A stimulus applied to one of the axons prevented propagation of a spike evoked by a pulse delivered to the other axon until sufficient time had elapsed after the first stimulus for the resultant spike to have propagated from the first stimulus site along one cell process (towards the cell body or branch point), and from this point along the other axonal branch to the second stimulus site (there was also a short additional delay period during which the axon at the site of the second stimulus recovered from its absolute refractory period). If the interval between the stimuli was progressively reduced, there came a point where the second spike failed. Such a clear demonstration of dual projections in a system where the cells were previously thought to have only a single axon raises the possibility that many nerve cells in the CNS have previously unsuspected projections.

Original publication




Journal article


J Anat

Publication Date





425 - 434


Animals, Axons, Electric Stimulation, Electrodes, Implanted, Male, Neural Pathways, Neurosecretory Systems, Pituitary Gland, Posterior, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Supraoptic Nucleus