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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Nov 1;303(9):R929-40. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00356.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 5.

Responses of neurons in the caudal medullary lateral tegmental field to visceral inputs and vestibular stimulation in vertical planes.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


The dorsolateral reticular formation of the caudal medulla, or the lateral tegmental field (LTF), has been classified as the brain's "vomiting center", as well as an important region in regulating sympathetic outflow. We examined the responses of LTF neurons in cats to rotations of the body that activate vestibular receptors, as well as to stimulation of baroreceptors (through mechanical stretch of the carotid sinus) and gastrointestinal receptors (through the intragastric administration of the emetic compound copper sulfate). Approximately half of the LTF neurons exhibited graviceptive responses to vestibular stimulation, similar to primary afferents innervating otolith organs. The other half of the neurons had complex responses, including spatiotemporal convergence behavior, suggesting that they received convergent inputs from a variety of vestibular receptors. Neurons that received gastrointestinal and baroreceptor inputs had similar complex responses to vestibular stimulation; such responses are expected for neurons that contribute to the generation of motion sickness. LTF units with convergent baroreceptor and vestibular inputs may participate in producing the cardiovascular system components of motion sickness, such as the changes in skin blood flow that result in pallor. The administration of copper sulfate often modulated the gain of responses of LTF neurons to vestibular stimulation, particularly for units whose spontaneous firing rate was altered by infusion of drug (median of 459%). The present results raise the prospect that emetic signals from the gastrointestinal tract modify the processing of vestibular inputs by LTF neurons, thereby affecting the probability that vomiting will occur as a consequence of motion sickness.

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