Cholinergic stimulation of prefrontal cortex (PFC) can reverse anesthesia. Conversely, inactivation of PFC can delay emergence from anesthesia. PFC receives cholinergic projections from basal forebrain, which contains wake-promoting neurons. However, the role of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons in arousal from the anesthetized state requires refinement, and it is currently unknown whether the arousal-promoting effect of basal forebrain is mediated through PFC. To address these gaps in knowledge, we implemented a novel approach to the use of chemogenetic stimulation and tested the role of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons in behavioral arousal during sevoflurane anesthesia. Next, we investigated the effect of tetrodotoxin-mediated inactivation of PFC on behavioral arousal produced by electrical stimulation of basal forebrain during sevoflurane anesthesia.
Adult male and female transgenic rats (Long-Evans-Tg [ChAT-Cre]5.1 Deis; n = 22) were surgically prepared for expression of excitatory hM3D(Gq) receptors or mCherry in basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, and activation of these neurons by local delivery of compound 21, an agonist for hM3D(Gq) receptors. The transgenic rats were fitted with microdialysis probes for agonist delivery into basal forebrain and simultaneous prefrontal acetylcholine measurement. Adult male and female Sprague Dawley rats were surgically prepared for bilateral electrical stimulation of basal forebrain and tetrodotoxin infusion (156 μM and 500 nL) into PFC (n = 9) or bilateral electrical stimulation of piriform cortex (n = 9) as an anatomical control. All rats were implanted with electrodes to monitor the electroencephalogram. Heart and respiration rates were monitored using noninvasive sensors. A 6-point scale was used to score behavioral arousal (0 = no arousal and 5 = return of righting reflex).
Compound 21 delivery into basal forebrain of rats with hM3D(Gq) receptors during sevoflurane anesthesia produced increases in arousal score (P < .001; confidence interval [CI], 1.80–4.35), heart rate (P < .001; CI, 36.19–85.32), respiration rate (P < .001; CI, 22.81–58.78), theta/delta ratio (P = .008; CI, 0.028–0.16), and prefrontal acetylcholine (P < .001; CI, 1.73–7.46). Electrical stimulation of basal forebrain also produced increases in arousal score (P < .001; CI, 1.85–4.08), heart rate (P = .018; CI, 9.38–98.04), respiration rate (P < .001; CI, 24.15–53.82), and theta/delta ratio (P = .020; CI, 0.019–0.22), which were attenuated by tetrodotoxin-mediated inactivation of PFC.
This study validates the role of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons in behavioral arousal and demonstrates that the arousal-promoting effects of basal forebrain are mediated in part through PFC.
- Question: Is the arousal-promoting effect of basal forebrain mediated through prefrontal cortex?
- Findings: Inactivation of prefrontal cortex attenuates basal forebrain-mediated arousal.
- Meaning: This provides further evidence that the prefrontal cortex is part of the arousal circuitry.
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