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Behav Brain Res. 1993 Dec 20;58(1-2):49-55.

Mechanisms of defense in the inferior colliculus.

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Laboratório de Psicobiologia, FFCLRP, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.


The inferior colliculus (IC) is a well known relay station for auditory pathways in the brainstem. In the present review we are suggesting that aversive states are also generated and elaborated in the inferior colliculus and that this structure may be part of a brain system commanding defensive behavior. The evidences presented in this review have been obtained from experiments carried out with the combined use of intracerebral microinjections and of electrical stimulation of the inferior colliculus. This electrical stimulation caused a behavioral activation together with autonomic reactions usually observed as part of the defense reaction. NMDA--an excitatory amino acid--, or bicuculline--a GABAA antagonist--injected into the IC mimicked the effects of its electrical stimulation. The IC electrical stimulation showed clear aversive properties as rats submitted to a switch-off paradigm quickly learned to interrupt it. Systemic administration as well as IC microinjections of the anxiolytic compound midazolam caused dose-dependent increases in the latency and reductions in the frequency of switch-off responses to the inferior colliculus electrical stimulation. Similar results were obtained following microinjections into this brainstem structure of the GABAA agonist muscimol. These results suggest that neural substrates responsible for defensive behavior in the inferior colliculus may be depressed by benzodiazepines as part of the anxiolytic action of these compounds. This anti-aversive action may be produced by the enhancement of GABAA mechanisms. Serotonergic mechanisms seem also to be involved in the modulation of these aversive states as IC microinjections of zimelidine, a 5-HT uptake blocker, caused a significant inhibition of the switch-off responses in the shuttle-box.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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