Sensory afferent signals from neck muscles have been postulated to influence central cardiorespiratory control as components of postural reflexes, but neuronal pathways for this action have not been identified. The intermedius nucleus of the medulla (InM) is a target of neck muscle spindle afferents and is ideally located to influence such reflexes but is poorly investigated. To aid identification of the nucleus, we initially produced three-dimensional reconstructions of the InM in both mouse and rat. Neurochemical analysis including transgenic reporter mice expressing green fluorescent protein in GABA-synthesizing neurons, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization revealed that the InM is neurochemically diverse, containing GABAegric and glutamatergic neurons with some degree of colocalization with parvalbumin, neuronal nitric oxide synthase, and calretinin. Projections from the InM to the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) were studied electrophysiologically in rat brainstem slices. Electrical stimulation of the NTS resulted in antidromically activated action potentials within InM neurons. In addition, electrical stimulation of the InM resulted in EPSPs that were mediated by excitatory amino acids and IPSPs mediated solely by GABAA receptors or by GABA A and glycine receptors. Chemical stimulation of the InM resulted in (1) a depolarization of NTS neurons that were blocked by NBQX (2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonoamide) or kynurenic acid and (2) a hyperpolarization of NTS neurons that were blocked by bicuculline. Thus, the InM contains neurochemically diverse neurons and sends both excitatory and inhibitory projections to the NTS. These data provide a novel pathway that may underlie possible reflex changes in autonomic variables after neck muscle spindle afferent activation.
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