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J Neurophysiol. 2010 May;103(5):2326-38. doi: 10.1152/jn.01122.2009. Epub 2010 Feb 24.

Multimodal sensory responses of nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis and the responses' relation to cortical and motor activation.

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The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The connectivity of large neurons of the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (NRGc) in the medullary reticular formation potentially allows both for the integration of stimuli, in several modalities, that would demand immediate action, and for coordinated activation of cortical and motoric activity. We have simultaneously recorded cortical local field potentials, neck muscle electromyograph (EMG), and the neural activity of medullary NRGc neurons in unrestrained, unanesthetized rats to determine whether the activity of the NRGc is consistent with the modulation of general arousal. We observed excitatory responses of individual NRGc neurons to all modalities tested: tactile, visual, auditory, vestibular, and olfactory. Excitation was directly linked to increases in neck muscle EMG amplitude and corresponded with increases in the power of fast oscillations (30 to 80 Hz) of cortical activity and decreases in the power of slow oscillations (2 to 8 Hz). Because these reticular formation neurons can respond to broad ranges of stimuli with increased firing rates associated with the initiation of behavioral responses, we infer that they are part of an elementary "first responder" CNS arousal mechanism.

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