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Neuroscience. 1999;94(1):11-5.

Hypoglossal motoneurons are postsynaptically inhibited during carbachol-induced rapid eye movement sleep.

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Department of Physiology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is characterized by the occurrence of cyclic snoring and frequent apneic episodes during sleep, with consequent hypoxia and hypercapnia. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is associated with excess daytime sleepiness, depression, and an increased incidence of ischemic cardiopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, systemic hypertension and brain infarction. Hypoglossal motoneurons, which innervate extrinsic and intrinsic muscles of the tongue, play a key role in maintaining the patency of the upper airway and in the pathophysiology of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Based on data obtained by using extracellular recording techniques, there is a consensus that hypoglossal motoneurons cease to discharge during rapid eye movement sleep, because they are disfacilitated. Since other somatic motoneurons are known to be postsynaptically inhibited during rapid eye movement sleep, we sought to determine, by the use of intracellular recording techniques during cholinergically induced rapid eye movement sleep, whether postsynaptic inhibitory mechanisms act on hypoglossal motoneurons. We found that, during this state, a powerful glycinergic premotor inhibitory system acts to suppress hypoglossal motoneurons. This finding opens new avenues for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, and provides a foundation to explore the neural and pharmacological control of respiration-related motoneurons during rapid eye movement sleep.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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