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J Physiol. 2013 Dec 1;591(Pt 23):6069-88. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.262071. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Respiratory, metabolic and cardiac functions are altered by disinhibition of subregions of the medial prefrontal cortex.

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  • 1A. K. Goodchild: Australian School of Advanced Medicine, Level 1, 2 Technology Place, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia. ann.goodchild@mq.edu.au.


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is referred to as the visceral motor cortex; however, little is known about whether this region influences respiratory or metabolic outflows. The aim of this study was to describe simultaneous changes in respiratory, metabolic and cardiovascular functions evoked by disinhibition of the medial PFC (mPFC) and adjacent lateral septal nucleus (LSN). In urethane-anaesthetized rats, bicuculline methiodide was microinjected (2 mm; GABA-A receptor antagonist) into 90 sites in the mPFC at 0.72-4.00 mm from bregma. Phrenic nerve amplitude and frequency, arterial pressure, heart rate, splanchnic and lumbar sympathetic nerve activities (SNA), expired CO2, and core and brown adipose tissue temperatures were measured. Novel findings included disturbances to respiratory rhythm evoked from all subregions of the mPFC. Injections into the cingulate cortex evoked reductions in central respiratory function exclusively, whereas in ventral sites, particularly the infralimbic region, increases in respiratory drive and frequency, and metabolic and cardiac outflows were evoked. Disinhibition of sites in surrounding regions revealed that the LSN could evoke cardiovascular changes accompanied by distinct oscillations in SNA, as well as increases in respiratory amplitude. We show that activation of neurons within the mPFC and LSN influence respiratory, metabolic and cardiac outflows in a site-dependent manner. This study has implications with respect to the altered PFC neuronal activity seen in stress-related and mental health disorders, and suggests how basic physiological systems may be affected.

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