Article

Mesopontine Neurons Implicated in Anesthetic Loss-of-consciousness have Either Ascending or Descending Axonal Projections, but Not Both

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

The MPTA (mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area) is a key node in a network of axonal pathways that collectively engage the key components of general anesthesia: immobility and atonia, analgesia, amnesia and loss-of-consciousness. In this study we have applied double retrograde tracing to analyze MPTA connectivity, with a focus on axon collateralization. Prior tracer studies have shown that collectively, MPTA neurons send descending projections to spinal and medullary brain targets associated with atonia and analgesia as well as ascending projections to forebrain structures associated with amnesia and arousal. Here we ask whether individual MPTA neurons collateralize broadly as might be expected of modulatory circuitry, sending axonal branches to both caudal and to rostral targets, or whether connectivity is more selective. Two distinguishable retrograde tracers were microinjected into pairs ("dyads") of known synaptic targets of the MPTA, one caudal and one rostral. We found that neurons that were double-labeled, and hence project to both targets were rare, constituting <0.5% on average of all MPTA neurons that project to these targets. The large majority sent axons either caudally, presumably to mediate mobility and/or antinociception, or rostrally, presumably to mediate mnemonic and/or arousal/cognitive functions. MPTA neurons with descending vs. ascending projections also differed in size and shape, supporting the conclusion that they constitute distinct neuronal populations. From these and prior observations we conclude that the MPTA has a hybrid architecture including neurons with heterogeneous patterns of connectivity, some highly collateralized and some more targeted.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Article
The brain undergoes rapid, dramatic, and reversible transitioning between states of wakefulness and unconsciousness during natural sleep and in pathological conditions such as hypoxia, hypotension, and concussion. Transitioning can also be induced pharmacologically using general anesthetic agents. The effect is selective. Mobility, sensory perception, memory formation, and awareness are lost while numerous housekeeping functions persist. How is selective transitioning accomplished? Classically a handful of brainstem and diencephalic “arousal nuclei” have been implicated in driving brain-state transitions on the grounds that their net activity systematically varies with brain state. Here we used transgenic targeted recombination in active populations mice
Article
General anesthetic agents are thought to induce loss-of-consciousness (LOC) and enable pain-free surgery by acting on the endogenous brain circuitry responsible for sleep-wake cycling. In clinical use, the entire CNS is exposed to anesthetic molecules with LOC usually attributed to synaptic suppression in the cerebral cortex and immobility and analgesia to agent action in the spinal cord and brainstem. This model of patch-wise suppression has been challenged, however, by the observation that all functional components of anesthesia can be induced by focal delivery of minute quantities of GABAergic agonists to the brainstem mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area (MPTA). We compared spectral features of the cortical electroencephalogram (EEG) in rats during systemic anesthesia and anesthesia induced by MPTA microinjection. Systemic administration of (GABAergic) pentobarbital yielded the sustained, δ-band dominant EEG signature familiar in clinical anesthesia. In contrast, anesthesia induced by MPTA microinjection (pentobarbital or muscimol) featured epochs of δ-band EEG alternating with the wake-like EEG, the pattern typical of natural non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) and REM sleep. The rats were not sleeping, however, as they remained immobile, atonic and unresponsive to noxious pinch. Recalling the paradoxical wake-like quality the EEG during REM sleep, we refer to this state as “paradoxical anesthesia”. GABAergic anesthetics appear to co-opt both cortical and spinal components of the sleep network via dedicated axonal pathways driven by MPTA neurons. Direct drug exposure of cortical and spinal neurons is not necessary, and is probably responsible for off-target side-effects of systemic administration including monotonous δ-band EEG, hypothermia and respiratory depression. Significance statement The concept that GABAergic general anesthetic agents induce loss-of-consciousness by substituting for an endogenous neurotransmitter, thereby co-opting neural circuitry responsible for sleep-wake transitions, has gained considerable traction. However, the electroencephalographic (EEG) signatures of sleep and anesthesia differ fundamentally. We show that when the anesthetic state is generated by focal delivery of GABAergics into the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area (MPTA) the resulting EEG repeatedly transitions between delta-wave-dominant and wake-like patterns much as in REM-NREM sleep. This suggests that systemic (clinical) anesthetic delivery, which indiscriminately floods the entire cerebrum with powerful inhibitory agents, obscures the sleep-like EEG signature associated with the less adulterated form of anesthesia obtained when the drugs are applied selectively to loci where the effective neurotransmitter substitution actually occurs.
Article
In light of the general shift from rats to mice as the leading rodent model in neuroscience research we used c-Fos expression as a tool to survey brain regions in the mouse in which neural activity differs between the states of wakefulness and pentobarbital-induced general anesthesia. The aim was to complement prior surveys carried out in rats. In addition to a broad qualitative review, 28 specific regions of interest (ROIs) were evaluated quantitatively. Nearly all ROIs in the cerebral cortex showed suppressed activity. Subcortically, however, some ROIs showed suppression, some showed little change, and some showed increased activity. The overall picture was similar to the rat. Special attention was devoted to ROIs significantly activated during anesthesia as such loci might actively drive the transition to anesthetic unconsciousness rather than responding passively to inhbitory agents distributed globally (the “wet blanket” hypothesis). Twelve such “anesthesia-on” ROIs were identified: the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, supraoptic nucleus, tuberomamillary nucleus, lateral habenular nucleus, dentate gyrus, nucleus raphe pallidus, central amygdaloid nucleus, perifornical lateral hypothalamus, ventro-lateral preoptic area, lateral septum, paraventricular thalamic nucleus and zona incerta. The same primary anti-FOS antibody was used in all mice, but two alternative reporter systems were employed: ABC-diaminobenzidine and the currently more popular AlexaFluor488. Fluorescence tagging revealed far fewer FOS-immunoreactive neurons, sounding an alert that the reporter system chosen can have major effects on results obtained.
Article
The mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area (MPTA) is a small brainstem nucleus that, when exposed to minute quantities of GABAA receptor agonists, induces a state of general anesthesia. In addition to immobility and analgesia this state is accompanied by widespread suppression of neural activity in the cerebral cortex and high delta-band power in the electroencephalogram. Collectively, MPTA neurons are known to project to a variety of forebrain targets which are known to relay to the cortex in a highly distributed manner. Here we ask whether ascending projections of individual MPTA neurons collateralize to several of these cortical relay nuclei, or access only one. Using rats, contrasting retrograde tracers were microinjected pairwise on one side into three ascending relays: the basal forebrain, the zona incerta-lateral hypothalamus and the intralaminar thalamic nuclear group. In addition, in separate animals, each target was microinjected bilaterally. MPTA neurons were then identified as being single-or double-labeled, indicating projection to one target nucleus or collateralization to both. Results indicated that double-labeling was rare, occurring on average in only 1.3% of the neurons sampled. The overwhelming majority of individual MPTA neurons showed specific connectivity, contributing to only one of the major ascending pathways, either ipsilaterally or contralaterally, but not bilaterally. This architecture would permit particular functional aspects of anesthetic loss-of-consciousness to be driven by specific subpopulations of MPTA neurons.
Article
Full-text available
There have been a number of advances in the search for the neural correlates of consciousness-the minimum neural mechanisms sufficient for any one specific conscious percept. In this Review, we describe recent findings showing that the anatomical neural correlates of consciousness are primarily localized to a posterior cortical hot zone that includes sensory areas, rather than to a fronto-parietal network involved in task monitoring and reporting. We also discuss some candidate neurophysiological markers of consciousness that have proved illusory, and measures of differentiation and integration of neural activity that offer more promising quantitative indices of consciousness.
Article
Full-text available
Serotoninergic innervation of the central nervous system is provided by hindbrain raphe nuclei (B1–B9). The extent to which each raphe subdivision has distinct topographic organization of their projections is still unclear. We provide a comprehensive description of the main targets of the rostral serotonin (5-HT) raphe subgroups (B5–B9) in the mouse brain. Adeno-associated viruses that conditionally express GFP under the control of the 5-HT transporter promoter were used to label small groups of 5-HT neurons in the dorsal (B7d), ventral (B7v), lateral (B7l), and caudal (B6) subcomponents of the dorsal raphe (DR) nucleus as well as in the rostral and caudal parts of the median raphe (MR) nucleus (B8 and B5, respectively), and in the supralemniscal (B9) cell group. We illustrate the distinctive and largely non-overlapping projection areas of these cell groups: for instance, DR (B7) projects to basal parts of the forebrain, such as the amygdala, whereas MR (B8) is the main 5-HT source to the hippocampus, septum, and mesopontine tegmental nuclei. Distinct subsets of B7 have preferential brain targets: B7v is the main source of 5-HT for the cortex and amygdala while B7d innervates the hypothalamus. We reveal for the first time the target areas of the B9 cell group, demonstrating projections to the caudate, prefrontal cortex, substantia nigra, locus coeruleus and to the raphe cell groups. The broad topographic organization of the different raphe subnuclei is likely to underlie the different functional roles in which 5-HT has been implicated in the brain. The present mapping study could serve as the basis for genetically driven specific targeting of the different subcomponents of the mouse raphe system.
Article
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a distinct brain state characterized by activated electroencephalogram and complete skeletal muscle paralysis, and is associated with vivid dreams. Transection studies by Jouvet first demonstrated that the brainstem is both necessary and sufficient for REM sleep generation, and the neural circuits in the pons have since been studied extensively. The medulla also contains neurons that are active during REM sleep, but whether they play a causal role in REM sleep generation remains unclear. Here we show that a GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric-acid-releasing) pathway originating from the ventral medulla powerfully promotes REM sleep in mice. Optogenetic activation of ventral medulla GABAergic neurons rapidly and reliably initiated REM sleep episodes and prolonged their durations, whereas inactivating these neurons had the opposite effects. Optrode recordings from channelrhodopsin-2-tagged ventral medulla GABAergic neurons showed that they were most active during REM sleep (REMmax), and during wakefulness they were preferentially active during eating and grooming. Furthermore, dual retrograde tracing showed that the rostral projections to the pons and midbrain and caudal projections to the spinal cord originate from separate ventral medulla neuron populations. Activating the rostral GABAergic projections was sufficient for both the induction and maintenance of REM sleep, which are probably mediated in part by inhibition of REM-suppressing GABAergic neurons in the ventrolateral periaqueductal grey. These results identify a key component of the pontomedullary network controlling REM sleep. The capability to induce REM sleep on command may offer a powerful tool for investigating its functions.
Article
Deciphering how neural circuits are anatomically organized with regard to input and output is instrumental in understanding how the brain processes information. For example, locus coeruleus noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) (LC-NE) neurons receive input from and send output to broad regions of the brain and spinal cord, and regulate diverse functions including arousal, attention, mood and sensory gating. However, it is unclear how LC-NE neurons divide up their brain-wide projection patterns and whether different LC-NE neurons receive differential input. Here we developed a set of viral-genetic tools to quantitatively analyse the input-output relationship of neural circuits, and applied these tools to dissect the LC-NE circuit in mice. Rabies-virus-based input mapping indicated that LC-NE neurons receive convergent synaptic input from many regions previously identified as sending axons to the locus coeruleus, as well as from newly identified presynaptic partners, including cerebellar Purkinje cells. The 'tracing the relationship between input and output' method (or TRIO method) enables trans-synaptic input tracing from specific subsets of neurons based on their projection and cell type. We found that LC-NE neurons projecting to diverse output regions receive mostly similar input. Projection-based viral labelling revealed that LC-NE neurons projecting to one output region also project to all brain regions we examined. Thus, the LC-NE circuit overall integrates information from, and broadcasts to, many brain regions, consistent with its primary role in regulating brain states. At the same time, we uncovered several levels of specificity in certain LC-NE sub-circuits. These tools for mapping output architecture and input-output relationship are applicable to other neuronal circuits and organisms. More broadly, our viral-genetic approaches provide an efficient intersectional means to target neuronal populations based on cell type and projection pattern.
Article
We describe a method to map the location of axonal arbors of many individual neurons simultaneously via the spectral properties of retrogradely transported dye-labeled vesicles. We inject overlapping regions of an axon target area with three or more different colored retrograde tracers. On the basis of the combinations and intensities of the colors in the individual vesicles transported to neuronal somata, we calculate the projection sites of each neuron's axon. This neuronal positioning system (NPS) enables mapping of many axons in a simple automated way. In our experiments, NPS combined with spectral (Brainbow) labeling of the input to autonomic ganglion cells showed that the locations of ganglion cell projections to a mouse salivary gland related to the identities of their preganglionic axonal innervation. NPS could also delineate projections of many axons simultaneously in the mouse central nervous system.