Role of the ventrolateral region of the nucleus of the tractus solitarius in processing respiratory afferent input from vagus and superior laryngeal nerves

D. R. McCrimmon, D. F. Speck, J. L. Feldman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The role of respiratory neurons located within and adjacent to the region of the ventrolateral nucleus of the tractus solitarius (vlNTS) in processing respiratory related afferent input from the vagus and superior laryngeal nerves was examined. Responses in phrenic neural discharge to electrical stimulation of the cervical vagus or superior laryngeal nerve afferents were determined before and after lesioning the vlNTS region. Studies were conducted on anesthetized, vagotomized, paralyzed and artificially ventilated cats. Arrays of 2 to 4 tungsten microelectrodes were used to record neuronal activity and for lesioning. Constant current lesions were made in the vlNTS region where respiratory neuronal discharges were recorded. The region of the vlNTS was probed with the microelectrodes and lesions made until no further respiratory related neuronal discharge could be recorded. The size and placement of lesions was determined in subsequent microscopic examination of 50 μm thick sections. Prior to making lesions, electrical stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerve (4-100 μA, 10 Hz, 0.1 ms pulse duration) elicited a short latency increase in discharge of phrenic motoneurons, primarily contralateral to the stimulated nerve. This was followed by a bilateral decrease in phrenic nerve discharge and, at higher currents, a longer latency increase in discharge. Stimulation of the vagus nerve at intensities chosen to selectively activate pulmonary stretch receptor afferent fibers produced a stimulus (current) dependent shortening of inspiratory duration. Responses were compared between measurements made immediately before and immediately after each lesion so that changes in response efficacy due to lesions per se could be distinguished from other factors, such as slight changes in the level of anesthesia over the several hours necessary in some cases to complete the lesions. Neither uni- nor bi-lateral lesions altered the efficacy with which stimulation of the vagus nerve shortened inspiratory duration. The short latency excitation of the phrenic motoneurons due to stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerve was severely attenuated by unilateral lesions of the vlNTS region ipsilateral to the stimulated nerve. Neither the bilateral inhibition nor the longer latency excitation due to superior laryngeal nerve stimulation was reduced by uni- or bi-lateral lesions of the vlNTS region. These results demonstrate that extensive destruction of the region of the vlNTS: a) does not markedly affect the inspiratory terminating reflex associated with electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve in a current range selective for activation of pulmonary stretch receptor afferents, and b) abolishes the short-latency increase, but not the bilateral decrease or longer latency increase in phrenic motoneuronal discharge which follows stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerve. We conclude that respiratory neurons in the region of the vlNTS do not play an obligatory role in the respiratory phase transitions in this experimental preparation. Neurons in the vlNTS region may participate in other reflexes, such as the generation of augmented phrenic motoneuronal discharge in response to activation of certain superior laryngeal or vagus nerve afferents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1987


  • Dorsal respiratory group
  • Nucleus tractus solitarius
  • Pulmonary stretch receptors
  • Respiratory control
  • Superior laryngeal nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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