The effect of concussive head injury on central cholinergic neurons

Antonella Saija, Ronald L. Hayes, Bruce G Lyeth, C. Edward Dixon, Takamitsu Yamamoto, Susan E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This study examined the effect of fluid percussion head injury on the activity of cholinergic neurons in specific brain areas of the rat 12 min, 4 h and 24 h following injury. Acetylcholine (ACh) turnover, used as an index of cholinergic neuronal activity, was determined using a gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric technique. The most striking changes in cholinergic activity were observed in the dorsal pontine tegmentum, where concussive head injury produced an increase in ACh turnover 12 min and 4 h following injury. This area has been previously associated with behavioral changes observed following concussive injury. ACh turnover in the thalamus, a region to which pontine cholinergic neurons project, also tended to increase 4 h following injury. On the other hand, ACh turnover tended to decrease in the amygdala 4 h following injury. Although there were no significant changes in hippocampal ACh content or turnover following injury, ACh content did tend to increase in that brain region 12 min following injury. There were no significant effects of injury on cholinergic neurons in the cingulate/frontal cortex. These changes in cholinergic neuronal activity may contribute to the neurological deficits following concussive injury. In particular, activation of cholinergic neurons in the pontine region may contribute to components of behavioral suppression associated with reversible traumatic unconsciousness. More generalized changes in cholinergic function may lead to the production of more chronic deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 14 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Amygdala
  • Concussion
  • Head injury
  • Hippocampus
  • Pons
  • Rat
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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