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Injections of a beta-adrenergic antagonist in pontine reticular structures modify the gain of vestibulospinal reflexes in decerebrate cats.

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


1. The norepinephrine (NE)-containing locus coeruleus (LC) neurons control posture as well as the gain of the vestibulospinal reflexes either through direct coeruleospinal (CS) projections or by inhibiting the dorsal pontine reticular formation (pRF) and the related medullary inhibitory reticulospinal (RS) system. The question whether these inhibitory influences on the pRF are mediated through beta-adrenoceptors was investigated by injecting in precollicular decerebrate cats small doses of the non-selective beta-adrenergic antagonist propranolol in different pontine tegmental structures. 2. Injection of propranolol (usually 0.25 microliters at the concentration of 4.5 micrograms/microliters of saline) in dorsal pontine structures, which decreased the tonic contraction of limb extensors ipsilateral to the side of the injection, greatly increased the amplitude of the multiunit EMG responses of the ipsilateral triceps brachii to roll tilt of the animal at 0.15 Hz, ± 10 degrees. Correspondingly, the response gain of the forelimb extensor to labyrinth stimulation increased. Moreover, a slight decrease in phase lead of the responses was observed. These responses were always characterized by an increased EMG activity during ipsilateral tilt and a decreased activity during contralateral tilt, as shown in the control records (alpha-responses). The same injection also produced in some instances an increase of the extensor tonus of the contralateral limbs, associated with an increased EMG activity of the contralateral triceps brachii; on the other hand, the amplitude of modulation and thus the response gain of this muscle to the same parameters of labyrinth stimulation decreased, while the response pattern reversed (beta-responses), thus being opposite to that displayed by the triceps brachii ipsilateral to the side of the injection. 3. The changes in posture and reflexes described above appeared 10-20 min after unilateral injection of propranolol in the pRF, reached in highest values in about 60-100 min and persisted for more that three hours before returning to the control level. These effects were not due to irritative phenomena following injection of the fluid, since neither changes in posture nor in the response gain of the triceps brachii to labyrinth stimulation were observed after injection of an equal volume of saline in the pRF of that side. Moreover, the magnitude of the effects increased to some extent in relation to the dose of the beta-adrenergic blocker. 4. Histological controls indicated that the structure responsible for these postural and reflex changes was located in the dorsal pontine tegmental region immediately ventral to the LC and included the peri-LC alpha and the surrounding dorsal pRF.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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