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Injections of beta-adrenergic substances in the locus coeruleus affect the gain of vestibulospinal reflexes in decerebrate cats.

P. d' Ascanio, E. Horn, O. Pompeiano, G. Stampacchia


1. The tonic discharge of the noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) neurons is dampened by norepinephrine (NE) which acts not only on alpha2-adrenoceptors located on the somatodendritic membrane, through mechanisms of recurrent inhibition, but also on beta-receptors. Experiments were performed to find out whether inactivation of LC neurons by local injection of the beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol into the LC complex of one side produced changes in posture as well as in the gain of vestibulospinal reflexes acting on forelimb extensors. 2. In precollicular decerebrate cats the amplitude of modulation and thus the gain of the multiunit EMG responses of the forelimb extensor triceps brachii to animal tilt at 0.15 Hz, ± 10 degrees, leading to sinusoidal stimulation of labyrinth receptors, were quite small. Microinjection of 0.25 microliter of a solution of the beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol at the concentration of 4.5-9.0 microgram/microliter of sterile saline into the LC complex of one side decreased the extensor rigidity in the ipsilateral limbs and to a lesser response gain of the ipsilateral triceps brachii to the same parameters of labyrinth stimulation greatly increased (t-test, P less than 0.001); moreover, a slight but significant increase in phase lead of the responses was observed. These findings appeared within 5-10 min after the injection of isoproterenol, fully developed within 20-30 min and persisted for about 2-3 hours after the injection. 3. The increased gain of the vestibulospinal reflexes acting on the triceps brachii did not depend on the decreased postural activity following injection of the beta-adrenergic agonist, since it was still observed if the reduced EMG activity of the extensor muscle following the injection was compensated for by an increased static stretch of the muscle. The positive correlation (t-test, P less than 0.001) between gain of the multiunit EMG response of the triceps brachii to animal tilt and base frequency observed in the control experiment disappeared and was substituted by a slight negative correlation (t-test, P less than 0.05) after injection of isoproterenol into the LC complex, probably due to a more prominent recruitment of motor units for low level of background discharge of the muscle. 4. In addition to the effects which involved the triceps brachii ipsilateral to the side of the injection, a smaller but significant increase in response gain affected the contralateral extensor muscle. This increase in gain was also associated with a slight increase in phase lead of the responses.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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