, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 159-172
Date: 18 Jul 2006

Contributions of GABAergic and glutamatergic mechanisms to isoflurane-induced suppression of thalamic somatosensory information transfer

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Indications for a pivotal role of the thalamocortical network in producing the state of anesthesia have come from in vivo animal studies as well as imaging studies in humans. We studied possible synaptic mechanisms of anesthesia-induced suppression of touch perception in the rat’s thalamus. Thalamocortical relay neurons (TCNs) receive ascending and descending glutamatergic excitatory inputs via NMDA and non-NMDA receptors (AMPAR) and are subjected to GABAAergic inhibitory input which shapes the sensory information conveyed to the cortex. The involvement of these synaptic receptors in the suppressive effects of the prototypic volatile anesthetic isoflurane was assessed by local iontophoretic administration of receptor agonists/antagonists during extracellular recordings of TCNs of the ventral posteromedial nucleus responding to whisker vibration in rats anesthetized with isoflurane concentrations of ∼0.9 vol.% (baseline) and ∼1.9 vol.% (ISO high). ISO high induced a profound suppression of response activity reflected by a conversion of the sustained vibratory responses to ON responses. Administration of NMDA, AMPA, or GABAAR antagonists caused a reversal to sustained responses in 88, 94 and 88% of the neurons, respectively, with a recovery to baseline levels of response activity. The data show that the block of thalamocortical transfer of tactile information under ISO high may result from an enhancement of GABAAergic inhibition and/or a reduction of glutamatergic excitation. Furthermore, they show that the ascending vibratory signals still reach the thalamic neurons under the high isoflurane concentration, indicating that this input is resistant to isoflurane while the attenuation of excitation may be brought about at the corticothalamic glutamatergic facilitatory input.