Muscle atonia can be induced by carbachol injections into the nucleus pontis oralis in cats anesthetized with alpha-chloralose

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Cholinergic excitation of structures in the pontine reticular formation appears to be a key step in the generation of active sleep. For example, muscle atonia which occurs as a result of the postsynaptic inhibition of motoneurons during active sleep is also present after carbachol, a cholinergic agonist, is injected into the nucleus pontis oralis. In the present study, in order to obtain information regarding the mechanisms that generate atonia during active sleep and to provide a paradigm for studying atonia in anesthetized cats, we determined whether cholinergically induced atonia could be generated in an animal that was anesthetized with alpha-chloralose. Cats which were initially anesthetized with alpha-chloralose (40 mg/kg, I.V.) exhibited spikes in the EEG, hippocampus and lateral geniculate nuclei. Muscle atonia occurred after carbachol (200 mM) was injected by microiontophoresis (300-500 nA) into the nucleus pontis oralis; the spikes in the EEG, hippocampus and lateral geniculate nuclei were still present. We believe that the atonia induced by carbachol in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized cats is mediated by the same mechanisms that operate during active sleep in the unanesthetized animal for the following reasons. First, in the same cats when they were not anesthetized with alpha-chloralose, carbachol injections in the identical brainstem sites induced active sleep with its accompanying pattern of muscle atonia. Second, after carbachol was injected into the same sites in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized cats, intracellular recordings from lumbar motoneurons revealed that inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were bombarding motoneurons; these inhibitory potentials were similar to those which are present during naturally occurring active sleep. In addition, stimulation of the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (NRGc) was found to induce large amplitude depolarizing potentials in lumbar motoneurons in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized cats prior to the administration of carbachol, whereas after its administration, accompanying muscle atonia there were large amplitude hyperpolarizing potentials and a reduction in the amplitude of depolarizing potentials. We therefore conclude that the cholinergically induced processes that initiate and maintain muscle atonia are not blocked by the actions of alpha-chloralose.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)201-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Animals, Carbachol, Cats, Chloralose, Electroencephalography, Membrane Potentials, Microinjections, Muscle Relaxation, Sleep, Spinal Cord

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