Norepinephrine and serotonin: Opposite effects on the activity of lateral geniculate neurons evoked by optic pathway stimulation

Michael A Rogawski, G. K. Aghajanian

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122 Scopus citations


This study compares the responses of single units in the rat dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGNd) to microiontophoretically applied norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT). Most of the cells were identified physiologically as P-type (geniculocortical relay) neurons. At low iontophoretic currents (1 to 20 nA), NE caused a delayed increase in the spontaneous firing rate of these units, whereas 5-HT invariably slowed the discharge frequency. To compare the effects of the two monoamines on evoked activity, P-cells were driven by electrical stimulation of the afferent visual pathway at the level of the optic chiasm. NE caused a marked facilitation of both the short-latency (2 to 4 ms) and the delayed (70 to 230 ms) responses to such stimulation. The α-adrenoreceptor antagonist phentolamine (10 nA), which by itself had no consistent effect on evoked activity, strongly diminished the response to NE. In contrast to NE, 5-HT was a powerful depressant of electrically evoked activity; neither phentolamine nor the 5-HT antagonist methysergide antagonized this response. Firing of LGNd units evoked by flashes of light was also facilitated by NE and depressed by 5-HT. We conclude that LGNd relay neurons exhibit the following unique features in their responsiveness to monoamines: (i) microiontophoretically applied NE facilitates, but 5-HT depresses, the spontaneous or synaptically evoked activity of virtually every cell; (ii) there is no dissociation between the actions of NE on spontaneous and evoked activity, as is the case in other brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-694
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neurology


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