Rhythmic activity of neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla of conscious cats: effect of removal of vestibular inputs

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Oct;301(4):R937-46. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00265.2011. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Although it is well established that bulbospinal neurons located in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) play a pivotal role in regulating sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure, virtually all neurophysiological studies of this region have been conducted in anesthetized or decerebrate animals. In the present study, we used time- and frequency-domain analyses to characterize the naturally occurring discharges of RVLM neurons in conscious cats. Specifically, we compared their activity to fluctuations in carotid artery blood flow to identify neurons with cardiac-related (CR) activity; we then considered whether neurons with CR activity also had a higher-frequency rhythmic firing pattern. In addition, we ascertained whether the surgical removal of vestibular inputs altered the rhythmic discharge properties of RVLM neurons. Less than 10% of RVLM neurons expressed CR activity, although the likelihood of observing a neuron with CR activity in the RVLM varied between recording sessions, even when tracking occurred in a very limited area and was higher after vestibular inputs were surgically removed. Either a 10-Hz or a 20- to 30-Hz rhythmic discharge pattern coexisted with the CR discharges in some of the RVLM neurons. Additionally, the firing rate of RVLM neurons, including those with CR activity, decreased after vestibular lesions. These findings raise the prospect that RVLM neurons may or may not express rhythmic firing patterns at a particular time due to a variety of influences, including descending projections from higher brain centers and sensory inputs, such as those from the vestibular system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baroreflex
  • Carotid Arteries / physiology
  • Cats
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Periodicity*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / surgery*