Nocifensive reflex-related on- and off-cells in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus, cuneiform nucleus, and lateral dorsal tegmental nucleus

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Cholinergic projections from the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) to the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) have been implicated in nociceptive modulation. The goal of this study was to identify neurons with nocifensive reflex-related activity in the mesopontine tegmentum including the PPTg. This study used the same behavioral neurophysiological classification system to identify neurons as has been extensively described in the RVM. Extracellular microelectrode recording was conducted in lightly anesthetized rats. Changes in firing associated with the noxious heat-evoked tail flick reflex were used to classify neurons as "on-cells" (displayed a burst in neuronal activity associated with the reflex), "off-cells" (displayed a pause in activity), and neutral cells (showed no response). Of 188 neurons studied in 23 rats, 77 were classified as on-cells, 14 as off-cells, the remainder as neutral cells. Recordings during periods without noxious stimulation found that some of the on- and off-cells displayed spontaneous transitions between active and silent periods termed cell cycling. The distribution of on- and off-cells in the mesopontine tegmentum overlapped and included the cholinergic PPTg and lateral dorsal tegmental nucleus identified by NADPH diaphorase staining, as well as the cuneiform nucleus and periaqueductal gray. The mesopontine tegmentum thus contains nocifensive reflex-related neurons with neurophysiological characteristics similar to those reported in the RVM. Neurons showing reflex-related activity were frequently encountered in the cholinergic PPTg and LDTg. Further studies will be required to determine whether these neurons modulate nociception through a link to the RVM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 30 2005



  • Acetylcholine
  • Nociception
  • Rostral ventromedial medulla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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