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Neuroscience. 1998 Mar;83(1):63-79.

Potent excitatory influence of prefrontal cortex activity on noradrenergic locus coeruleus neurons.

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Department of Psychiatry, MCP and Hahnemann Medical School, Allegheny University, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.


An influence of the prefrontal cortex on noradrenergic locus coeruleus neurons would have profound implications for the function of the locus coeruleus system. Although the medial prefrontal cortex does not substantially innervate the core of the nucleus locus coeruleus, evidence indicates that the medial prefrontal cortex projects to regions containing locus coeruleus dendrites; indirect medial prefrontal cortex-locus coeruleus projections are also possible. Here, we examined influences of prefrontal cortex activity on locus coeruleus firing rates by activating or inactivating the medial prefrontal cortex while recording impulse activity of locus coeruleus neurons extracellularly in anaesthetized rats. Most of our electrical stimulation experiments were conducted in rats which underwent lesions of the ascending dorsal bundle of noradrenergic fibres from the locus coeruleus to eliminate locus coeruleus projections to the prefrontal cortex, because antidromic activation of locus coeruleus from the prefrontal cortex affects even non-driven locus coeruleus neurons through collaterals. Single pulse stimulation (1 mA, 0.3-0.5 ms) of the dorsomedial (frontal region 2) or prelimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex synaptically activated 13/16 (81%) or 16/56 (29%) locus coeruleus neurons, respectively. Train stimulation (20 Hz for 0.5 s) synaptically activated greater percentages of locus coeruleus cells, 11/12 cells (92%) for the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and 41/50 cells (82%) for the prelimbic cortex. No inhibitory responses in the locus coeruleus were obtained with dorsomedial prefrontal stimulation, and weak inhibition was found in 16% of locus coeruleus cells with prelimbic stimulation. Electrical stimulation of more lateral frontal cortex (Fr1 area) had no effects on locus coeruleus activity. Chemical stimulation of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex with L-glutamate (10 or 100 mM) or D,L-homocysteic acid (10 mM) phasically activated 15/26 (55%) locus coeruleus cells, and 15/68 cells (22%) with prelimbic stimulation; such activation was sometimes followed by long-lasting oscillatory activity. No locus coeruleus cells exhibited purely inhibitory responses with chemical stimulation of any prefrontal cortex site. Inactivation of the dorsomedial or prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex with lidocaine microinjection (2%, 180 or 300 nl) reduced locus coeruleus firing rates in 6/10 (60%) or 7/19 (37%) locus coeruleus cells, respectively. In no case did lidocaine in any prefrontal cortex site activate a locus coeruleus neuron. These results indicate that the medial prefrontal cortex provides a potent excitatory influence on locus coeruleus neurons. The fact that inactivation of the medial prefrontal cortex suppressed locus coeruleus firing indicates that the medial prefrontal cortex also provides a resting tonic excitatory influence on locus coeruleus activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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