The aim of the present study was to examine whether the nucleus locus coeruleus/subcoeruleus (LC/SC) modulates visceromotor function. In the present study, an electromyogram (EMG) of the external abdominal oblique muscle evoked by colorectal distention was measured as a visceromotor reflex response, and inhibitory effects of LC/SC stimulation were estimated by the decrease of EMG activity. Under halothane anesthesia (1% in air), graded colorectal distentions (30, 60 or 80 mmHg) were produced by inflating a balloon inside the descending colon and rectum. A bipolar EMG electrode was inserted into the left external abdominal oblique muscle to record the EMG response to colorectal distention. Colorectal distention at a pressure of 30 mmHg did not evoke any EMG activity in the external abdominal oblique muscle in all rats tested. Electrical stimulation of the LC/SC (30, 50 and 70 μA, 100 Hz, 0.1 ms pulses) reduced EMG responses evoked by colorectal distention to 60 and 80 mmHg. LC/SC stimulation was effective both ipsilaterally and contralaterally indicating a bilateral effect. EMG responses decreased with an increase of LC/SC stimulation intensity. Following recordings of the inhibitory effects of LC/SC stimulation, lesions of the LC/SC ipsilateral to the EMG recording site were induced; 1 h after lesions the inhibitory effects of LC/SC stimulation were examined again. LC/SC stimulation did not reduce the EMG responses when LC/SC stimulation was applied to the ipsilateral LC/SC, whereas EMG responses were observed by stimulation of the intact LC/SC contralateral to the EMG recording site. From lesion experiments, it could be considered that suppression of the visceromotor response to colorectal distention is due to activation of the LC/SC. The results suggest that the visceromotor function is under the control of the centrifugal pathways from the LC/SC. © 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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