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Pain. 2001 Oct;94(1):101-12.

Reversible analgesia, atonia, and loss of consciousness on bilateral intracerebral microinjection of pentobarbital.

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Department of Cell and Animal Biology, Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel.


Concussion, asphyxia, and systemically administered general anesthetics all induce reversible depression of the organism's response to noxious stimuli as one of the elements of loss of consciousness. This is so even for barbiturate anesthetics, which have only modest analgesic efficacy at subanesthetic doses. Little is known about the neural circuits involved in this form of antinociception, although for anesthetic agents, at least, it is usually presumed that the drugs act in widely distributed regions of the nervous system. We now report the discovery of a focal zone in the brainstem mesopontine tegmentum in rats at which microinjection of minute quantities of pentobarbital induces a transient, reversible anesthetic-like state with non-responsiveness to noxious stimuli, flaccid atonia, and absence of the righting reflex. The behavioral suppression is accompanied by slow-wave EEG and, presumably, loss of consciousness. This zone, which we refer to as the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia locus (MPTA), apparently contains a barbiturate-sensitive 'switch' for both cortical and spinal activity. The very existence of the MPTA locus has implications for an understanding of the neural circuits that control motor functions and pain sensation, and for the cerebral representation of consciousness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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