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Brain Res. 1988 Jan 26;439(1-2):95-106.

Integrated defence reaction elicited by excitatory amino acid microinjection in the midbrain periaqueductal grey region of the unrestrained cat.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Sydney, N.S.W., Australia.


Unilateral microinjections (0.20 microliter) of the excitatory amino acids (EAA), L-aspartate (ASP), D,L-homocysteate (DLH) or kainate (KA) were made into the midbrain of freely moving cats. Injections of DLH (20 nmol) or ASP (200 nmol) made within the midbrain periaqueductal grey matter (PAG) consistently elicited a threat display characteristic of defensive behaviour (i.e., pupillary dilatation, piloerection, retraction of the ears, sideways backing, arching of the back, hissing, howling, growling), whereas injections of DLH or ASP made in the tegmentum bordering the PAG did not elicit such behaviour. Injections of KA (940 pmol) made within the PAG, but not the tegmentum, elicited not only a threat display but also directed attack (striking with unsheathed claws and biting). As injections of EAA depolarize cell bodies, but not axons, the results suggest that a population of neurones whose excitation elicits all of the behavioural signs of defence, including directed attack, is found within the PAG. Histology indicated that the region of the PAG from which the defence reaction was elicited was not confined to any PAG subnucleus. Rather, the 'defence region' of the PAG formed a cylindrical column lateral to the midbrain aqueduct, approximately 1.5 mm in diameter and 5.0 mm in length, the rostral end of which lay dorsal to the caudal end. Further, it was found that EAA microinjections made in different portions of the defence region of the PAG elicited defence reactions characterised by different patterns of vocalization and differing intensities of display. It was also observed following unilateral injection of KA into the PAG that defence reactions, including attack, were elicited by approach in the visual hemifield or touch of the body contralateral, but not ipsilateral, to the injection site. The asymmetry of the defence reaction was not due to any obvious ipsilateral motor impairment and thus suggests that the PAG mediation of the defence reaction, in addition to controlling the outflow to the somatic and autonomic motor systems, also affects sensory processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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