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Exp Brain Res. 1988;72(3):626-39.

The projection from superior colliculus to cuneiform area in the rat. II. Defence-like responses to stimulation with glutamate in cuneiform nucleus and surrounding structures.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, U.K.


To investigate the role of the projection from superior colliculus to the cuneiform nucleus in mediating collicular responses, the cuneiform area (including the cuneiform nucleus and immediately adjacent structures such as caudal central grey) was stimulated in rats with microinjections of glutamate (50 mM, 200 nl, 10 nmole) and the animals' head and body movements observed. The most common responses obtained from sites in the cuneiform area were freezing, darting or fast running, the form or direction of which did not appear to be strongly influenced by the laterality of the injection. These responses were only a subset of those that have been obtained in previous studies from stimulation of the superior colliculus itself: stimulation of the cuneiform area did not give contralaterally directed movements resembling orienting or approach, or ipsilaterally directed movements resembling cringing or shying. It therefore appears that the tectocuneiform projection is likely to be involved only in some of the behaviours appropriate to unexpected stimuli that are mediated by the superior colliculus, namely undirected defensive responses elicited normally by certain kinds of threatening or noxious stimulation. Involvement with such responses would be consistent with an apparent lack of topography in the tectocuneiform projection, and the connections of the cuneiform nucleus with parts of the brain concerned with nociception (see previous paper). It is unclear, however, whether the somatic responses occur in parallel with, or as a result of, autonomic changes that have also been evoked by stimulation of the cuneiform area. One striking feature of stimulating the cuneiform area with glutamate was that at many sites the intensity of the response appeared to increase with successive (one to three) injections. It is possible that this plasticity of response, which can also be obtained from the superior colliculus itself, is related to processes involved in sensitisation or learning of defensive responses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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