The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTN) has been thought to be involved in the control of behavioral state. Projections to the entire thalamus and reciprocal connections with the basal ganglia nuclei suggest a potential role for the PPTN in the control of various rhythmic behaviors, including waking/sleeping and locomotion. Recently, rhythmic activity in the local field potentials was recorded from the PPTN of patients with Parkinson's disease who were treated with levodopa, suggesting that rhythmic firing is a feature of the functioning PPTN and might change with the behaving conditions even within waking. However, it remains unclear whether and how single PPTN neurons exhibit rhythmic firing patterns during various behaving conditions, including executing conditioned eye movement behaviors, seeking reward, or during resting. We previously recorded from PPTN neurons in healthy monkeys during visually guided saccade tasks and reported task-related changes in firing rate, and in this paper, we reanalyzed these data and focused on their firing patterns. A population of PPTN neurons demonstrated a regular firing pattern in that the coefficient of variation of interspike intervals was lower than what would be expected of theoretical random and irregular spike trains. Furthermore, a group of PPTN neurons exhibited a clear periodic single spike firing that changed with the context of the behavioral task. Many of these neurons exhibited a periodic firing pattern during highly active conditions, either the fixation condition during the saccade task or the free-viewing condition during the intertrial interval. We speculate that these task context-related changes in rhythmic firing of PPTN neurons might regulate the monkey's attentional and vigilance state to perform the task.
Okada, K. I., & Kobayashi, Y. (2015). Rhythmic firing of pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus neurons in monkeys during eye movement task. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0128147