Electrophysiological methods were used to investigate the effects of trigeminal nerve stimulation or transection on responses of single gustatory neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) to tastants (NaCl, sucrose, citric acid, monosodium glutamate) in pentobarbital-anesthetized rats. Unilateral transection of the lingual nerve, or the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve, resulted in significant reductions (by 21 and 29%, respectively; P<0.01) in tastant-evoked responses, with no further effect following bilateral transection. Electrical stimulation of the central cut end of the mandibular nerve directly excited nine of 14 gustatory NTS units. For these units, central mandibular stimulation facilitated the tastant-evoked responses in six, depressed responses in three, and had no effect in five. Facilitation of tastant-evoked responses peaked 4 min after mandibular stimulation and recovered within 8 min. Electrical stimulation of the peripheral cut end of the mandibular nerve significantly reduced tastant-evoked responses in nine other NTS units, with a maximal reduction at 4 min post-stimulation followed by recovery. Stimulation of the superior cervical sympathetic ganglion did not affect NTS tastant-evoked responses. These results suggest the presence of complex central modulation of NTS neurons by trigeminal afferents, as well as a peripheral depressant effect on gustatory processing possibly mediated via neuropeptide release from trigeminal nerve endings in the tongue.
- Nucleus of solitary tract
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