Chloral hydrate anesthesia alters the responsiveness of central serotonergic neurons in the cat

James Heym, George F. Steinfels, Barry L. Jacobs

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The influence of chloral hydrate anesthesia on the spontaneous activity and responsiveness of serotonergic neurons was examined by administering chloral hydrate (300 mg/kg, i.p.) to freely moving cats from which serotonergic unit activity in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) was being recorded. Although chloral hydrate administration produced a surgical level of anesthesia within 15 min following injection, it produced only a small decrease (∼ 20%) in the spontaneous activity of DRN serotonergic neurons. In contrast, the responsiveness of these same neurons was greatly altered by chloral hydrate administration. By examining the same neuron before and after chloral hydrate injection, it was found that chloral hydrate anesthesia completely abolished the excitatory responses of DRN serotonergic neurons to auditory and visual stimuli, as well as their excitatory response to electrical stimulation of the gigantocellular tegmental field (FTG) in the pontine reticular formation. On the other hand, the inhibition of serotonergic neuron firing resulting from systemic administration of WB 4101 (1.0 mg/kg, i.p.), a selective α1 adrenergic receptor antagonist, was greatly potentiated by chloral hydrate anesthesia. Therefore, these data indicate that chloral hydrate anesthesia produces profound changes in the physiological and pharmacological responses of central serotonergic neurons which are not predictable by examination of spontaneous activity alone. Furthermore, as discussed, if it not clear to what extent these confounding influences might generalize to other anesthetized or immobilized preparations. Thus, beyond the obvious advantage which allows for the study of relationships between neuronal activity and behavior, single unit studies conducted in awake, freely moving animals also may be of greater value for basic physiological and pharmacological studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


  • adrenergic drugs
  • anesthesia
  • chloral hydrate
  • dorsal raphe nucleus
  • freely moving cats
  • raphe unit activity
  • sensory stimulation
  • serotonergic neurons
  • serotonin


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