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J Auton Nerv Syst. 2000 Mar 15;79(2-3):117-28.

Connections of Barrington's nucleus to the sympathetic nervous system in rats.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, 446 Crawford Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Barrington's nucleus (BN) has been considered a pontine center related exclusively to the control of pelvic parasympathetic activity. The present study demonstrates an anatomical linkage between BN and autonomic outflow to visceral targets innervated exclusively by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Temporal analysis of infection after injection of pseudorabies virus (PRV), a retrograde transynaptic tracer, into two sympathetically innervated organs, the spleen and the kidney, revealed the presence of infected neurons in BN at early post-inoculation survival intervals. Immunohistochemical localization of PRV after spleen injections showed that a small subpopulation of BN neurons became labeled in a time frame coincident with the appearance of infected neurons in other brain regions known to project to sympathetic preganglionic neurons (SPNs) in the thoracic spinal cord; a larger number of infected neurons appeared in BN at intermediate intervals after PRV injections into the spleen or kidney. Coinjection of the retrograde tracer Fluoro-Gold i.p. and PRV into the spleen demonstrated that parasympathetic preganglionic neurons in the caudal medulla or lumbo-sacral spinal cord were not infected, indicating that infected BN neurons were not infected via a parasympathetic route. Thus, BN neurons become infected after PRV injections into the spleen or kidney either directly through BN projections to SPNs, or secondarily via BN projections to infected pre-preganglionic neurons. These results demonstrate an anatomical linkage, either direct or indirect, between BN and sympathetic activity. Because BN receives numerous inputs from diverse brain regions, the relation of BN with both branches of the autonomic nervous system suggests that this nucleus might play a role in the integration of supraspinal inputs relevant to the central coordination of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

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