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Modulation of vestibulospinal reflexes through microinjection of an alpha 1-adrenergic antagonist in the dorsal pontine tegmentum of decerebrate cats.

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


1. The possibility that the norepinephrine (NE)-containing locus coeruleus (LC) neurons produce changes in posture as well as in gain of the vestibulospinal (VS) reflexes by acting on the dorsolateral pontine tegmentum (DPT) and the related medullary inhibitory reticulospinal (RS) system through alpha 1-adrenoceptors has been investigated in decerebrate cats. 2. Injection of the alpha 1-adrenergic antagonist prazosin PRZ (0.25 microliter at 0.1-1 microgram/microliter solvent) into the DPT, namely in the dorsal pontine reticular formation (pRF), as well as in the peribrachial nucleus of one side, decreased the postural activity in the ipsilateral limbs while increasing that of the contralateral limbs. In addition, the amplitude of modulation and thus the gain of the multiunit EMG responses of the ipsilateral and to a lesser extent of the contralateral triceps brachii to roll tilt of the animal at 0.15 Hz, ± 10 degrees, increased. These effects appeared 5-10 min after the injection, reached the highest values in about 40-60 min and persisted for additional 1.5-2 h before disappearing. 3. The effects were site-specific and to some extent dose-dependent. However, neither changes in posture nor in gain of the VS reflexes were obtained after injection in the effective area of an equal volume of solvent. 4. In order to account for these findings it was postulated that the alpha 1-antagonist blocks the tonic inhibitory influence that the NE-containing LC neurons exert on ipsilateral DPT either by exciting through alpha 1-receptors interposed inhibitory interneurons, or by inhibiting presynaptically excitatory afferents to the same pontine tegmental structures. The increased discharge of these neurons and the related medullary inhibitory RS neurons would reduce the postural activity in the ipsilateral limbs. However, since the inhibitory RS neurons show a response pattern to tilt opposite in sign to that elicited by the excitatory VS neurons, we could expect that for a given labyrinth signal, the increased discharge of the RS neurons in the animal at rest would lead to a greater disinhibition of limb extensor motoneurons during ipsilateral tilt. These motoneurons would then respond more efficiently to the same excitatory volleys elicited by given parameters of stimulation, thus leading to an increased gain of the EMG responses of forelimb extensors to labyrinth stimulation. The possibility that the DPT of one side activates inhibitory RS neurons of both sides explains why PRZ increases the gain of the VS reflexes not only ipsilaterally but also contralaterally to the side of the injection.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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