Cholinergic modulation of the acoustic startle response in the caudal pontine reticular nucleus of the rat

Eur J Pharmacol. 1999 Apr 9;370(2):101-7. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(99)00156-9.


The startle response is a useful behavioural model to assess drug effects on sensorimotor information processing in the mammalian central nervous system. Prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response in rats is an operational measure for sensorimotor gating mechanisms which may be necessary for attention and response selection. The caudal pontine reticular nucleus is a key element of the pathway that mediates the acoustic startle response and receives an inhibitory cholinergic projection that might be important for prepulse inhibition. The present study tested whether prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle is modulated by microinfusions of the muscarinic/nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist carbachol and of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist scopolamine. Carbachol (0-40 nmol/0.5 microl) dose dependently attenuated startle and enhanced prepulse inhibition. Scopolamine (0-40 nmol/0.5 microl) dose-dependently enhanced startle and reduced prepulse inhibition at a dose of 10 nmol. Scopolamine (40 nmol) also increased the spontaneous motor activity of the rats. These findings lend support to the hypothesis that muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the caudal pontine reticular nucleus inhibit the acoustic startle response and are involved in the mediation of prepulse inhibition of startle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Carbachol / administration & dosage
  • Carbachol / pharmacology*
  • Cholinergic Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Cholinergic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / physiology
  • Reflex, Startle / drug effects*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Scopolamine / administration & dosage
  • Scopolamine / pharmacology*


  • Cholinergic Agonists
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Carbachol
  • Scopolamine