Carotid Chemoreceptors Tune Breathing via Multipath Routing: Reticular Chain and Loop Operations Supported by Parallel Spike Train Correlations

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brain stem, breathing, carotid chemoreceptors, lateral tegmental field, network

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We tested the hypothesis that carotid chemoreceptors tune breathing through parallel circuit paths that target distinct elements of an inspiratory neuron chain in the ventral respiratory column (VRC). Microelectrode arrays were used to monitor neuronal spike trains simultaneously in the VRC, peri-nucleus tractus solitarius (p-NTS)-medial medulla, the dorsal parafacial region of the lateral tegmental field (FTL-pF), and medullary raphe nuclei together with phrenic nerve activity during selective stimulation of carotid chemoreceptors or transient hypoxia in 19 decerebrate, neuromuscularly blocked, and artificially ventilated cats. Of 994 neurons tested, 56% had a significant change in firing rate. A total of 33,422 cell pairs were evaluated for signs of functional interaction; 63% of chemoresponsive neurons were elements of at least one pair with correlational signatures indicative of paucisynaptic relationships. We detected evidence for postinspiratory neuron inhibition of rostral VRC I-Driver (pre-Bötzinger) neurons, an interaction predicted to modulate breathing frequency, and for reciprocal excitation between chemoresponsive p-NTS neurons and more downstream VRC inspiratory neurons for control of breathing depth. Chemoresponsive pericolumnar tonic expiratory neurons, proposed to amplify inspiratory drive by disinhibition, were correlationally linked to afferent and efferent “chains” of chemoresponsive neurons extending to all monitored regions. The chains included coordinated clusters of chemoresponsive FTL-pF neurons with functional links to widespread medullary sites involved in the control of breathing. The results support long-standing concepts on brain stem network architecture and a circuit model for peripheral chemoreceptor modulation of breathing with multiple circuit loops and chains tuned by tegmental field neurons with quasi-periodic discharge patterns.

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Journal of Neurophysiology, v. 119, issue 2, p. 700-722