Brain stem neurons that fire selectively to a conditioned stimulus for shock

In the brain stem reticular formation of rats, 10 neurons (1 in each of 10 animals) were found that responded by an increase in activity to a CS paired with foot shock but not to a neutral CS nor to a CS signalling the delivery of water to a thirsty rat. Nine of these neurons showing a conditioned response to shock (CR-S cells) were clustered in the region of nucleus pontis caudalis; the other CR-S cell was localized to nucleus gigantocellularis. The possibility that the increase in firing to the CS for shock was an unconditioned response to the specific stimulus used as this CS was controlled for. No correlation was observed between the activity of CR-S cells and gross movements of the rat. The data suggest that neurons in the pontine reticular region of the brain stem may participate in the reaction of a rat to an aversive situation such as fear.

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