Raphe unit activity in freely moving cats is altered by manipulations of central but not peripheral motor systems

George F. Steinfels, James Heym, Robert E. Strecker, Barry L. Jacobs

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Single unit activity of serotonergic neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus of freely moving cats was recorded in experiments which manipulated central or peripheral motor systems. Unilateral microinjections of the cholinomimetic agent, carbachol, into the pontine tegmentum, produced muscle atonia. During these periods of drug-induced atonia, the activity of serotonergic neurons was reduced 97% below pre-drug baseline rates. In experiments where microinjections of carbachol did not produce muscle atonia, no significant change occurred in serotonergic unit discharge rate. Muscle tonus was also altered by systemic injections of mephenesin, a centrally acting muscle relaxant. A low dose of mephenesin (50 mg/kg) produced mild atonia which was correlated with a 16% reduction in serotonergic neuron discharge rate relative to pre-drug baseline. A higher dose of mephenesin (150 mg/kg) produced complete atonia, during which serotonergic unit activity was reduced by 68% below baseline firing rate. To distinguish between centrally and peripherally induced atonia, we injected either succinylcholine or dantrolene, systemically. These are both drugs whose muscle relaxant properties are known to be mediated by peripheral mechanisms. In neither case was a change in serotonergic unit discharge rate seen following drug-induced atonia. These data demonstrate that manipulation of central, but not peripheral, motor systems can profoundly affect the activity of serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus. Alternate hypotheses are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 21 1983

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • dorsal raphe nucleus
  • freely moving cats
  • motor systems
  • muscle relaxant drugs
  • serotonergic neurons
  • serotonin


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