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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Mar;96(3):1146-54. Epub 2003 Oct 31.

Parabrachial neurons mediate dorsal periaqueductal gray evoked respiratory responses in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32601, USA.


The neural substrates mediating autonomic components of the behavioral defense response reside in the periaqueductal gray (PAG). The cardiovascular components of the defense response evoked from the dorsal PAG (DPAG) have been well described and are dependent, in part, on the integrity of neurons in the region of the parabrachial nucleus as well as the rostral ventrolateral medulla. Descending pathways mediating the ventilatory response associated with activation of DPAG neurons are unknown. The present study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that parabrachial area neurons are also involved in mediating the respiratory response to DPAG stimulation. In urethane-anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats, electrical stimulation of the DPAG significantly increased respiratory rate, arterial pressure, and heart rate. Changes in respiratory frequency were associated with significant decreases in inspiratory and expiratory durations. After bilateral inhibition of neurons in the lateral parabrachial nucleus (LPBN) region with 5 mM muscimol (n = 6), DPAG-evoked increases in respiration and heart rate were attenuated by 90 +/- 6 and 72 +/- 13%, respectively. The pressor response evoked by DPAG stimulation, however, was attenuated by only 57 +/- 6%. Bilateral blockade of glutamate receptors with 20 mM kynurenic acid (n = 6) in the LPBN also markedly attenuated DPAG-evoked increases in respiration and heart rate (65 +/- 15 and 53 +/- 9% reduction, respectively) but only modestly changed the DPAG-evoked pressor response (34 +/- 16% reduction). These results demonstrate that LPBN neurons play a significant role in the DPAG-mediated respiratory component of behavioral defense responses. This finding supports previous work demonstrating that the dorsolateral pons plays a significant role in mediating most physiological adjustments associated with activation of the DPAG.

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