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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Jun;101(6):2943-60. doi: 10.1152/jn.91305.2008. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

Pontine-ventral respiratory column interactions through raphe circuits detected using multi-array spike train recordings.

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Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida 33612-4799, USA.


Recently, Segers et al. identified functional connectivity between the ventrolateral respiratory column (VRC) and the pontine respiratory group (PRG). The apparent sparseness of detected paucisynaptic interactions motivated consideration of other potential functional pathways between these two regions. We report here evidence for "indirect" serial functional linkages between the PRG and VRC via intermediary brain stem midline raphé neurons. Arrays of microelectrodes were used to record sets of spike trains from a total of 145 PRG, 282 VRC, and 340 midline neurons in 11 decerebrate, vagotomized, neuromuscularly blocked, ventilated cats. Spike trains of 13,843 pairs of neurons that included at least one raphé cell were screened for respiratory modulation and short-time scale correlations. Significant correlogram features were detected in 7.2% of raphé-raphé (291/4,021), 4.3% of VRC-raphé (292/6,755), and 4.0% of the PRG-raphé (124/3,067) neuron pairs. Central peaks indicative of shared influences were the most common feature in correlations between pairs of raphé neurons, whereas correlated raphé-PRG and raphé-VRC neuron pairs displayed predominantly offset peaks and troughs, features suggesting a paucisynaptic influence of one neuron on the other. Overall, offset correlogram features provided evidence for 33 VRC-to-raphé-to-PRG and 45 PRG-to-raphé-to-VRC correlational linkage chains with one or two intermediate raphé neurons. The results support a respiratory network architecture with parallel VRC-to-PRG and PRG-to-VRC links operating through intervening midline circuits, and suggest that raphé neurons contribute to the respiratory modulation of PRG neurons and shape the respiratory motor pattern through coordinated divergent actions on both the PRG and VRC.

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