Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp 477–487 | Cite as

Upper cervical inspiratory neurons in the rat: an electrophysiological and morphological study

  • J. Lipski
  • J. Duffin
  • B. Kruszewska
  • X. Zhang


Upper cervical inspiratory neurons form a distinct neuronal column located near the lateral edge of the intermediate grey matter in the rostral spinal segments. Previous studies conducted in cats have demonstrated synaptic inputs to these neurons from several respiratory related regions of the medulla, and long descending axonal projections mainly towards the motoneurons supplying the intercostal muscles. The aim of this study was to examine the electrophysiological and morphological properties of this propriospinal system in the rat. Extracellular recordings were made from 127 cervical inspiratory units, mainly in the C1 and C2 segments. Eighty-two percent could be antidromically activated from the C7/C8 border. No evidence of monosynaptic connection was obtained by cross-correlating the activity of some of these units with the discharge of the phrenic nerve. Intracellular recordings were made from seven neurons, three of which were labelled with biotinamide (neurobiotin). Long “survival times” after intracellular injections (up to 23 h) resulted in staining of axons for long distances, at least to the C5 segment. Each of the three labelled axons issued only one short collateral which arborized in the region of the phrenic nucleus. These results demonstrate that upper cervical inspiratory neurons in the rat have features similar to those previously described in the cat, including only a limited projection to the phrenic nucleus. In addition, this study provides the first morphological identification of these neurons.

Key words

Electrophysiology Medulla oblongata Spinal cord Interneurons Respiratory control Intracellular labelling Rat 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Lipski
    • 1
  • J. Duffin
    • 2
  • B. Kruszewska
    • 1
  • X. Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologySchool of Medicine University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Departments of Physiology and AnaesthesiaUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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