Differentiation of autonomic reflex control begins with cellular mechanisms at the first synapse within the nucleus tractus solitarius

M. C. Andresen, M. W. Doyle, T. W. Bailey, Y. H. Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Visceral afferents send information via cranial nerves to the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). The NTS is the initial step of information processing that culminates in homeostatic reflex responses. Recent evidence suggests that strong afferent synaptic responses in the NTS are most often modulated by depression and this forms a basic principle of central integration of these autonomic pathways. The visceral afferent synapse is uncommonly powerful at the NTS with large unitary response amplitudes and depression rather than facilitation at moderate to high frequencies of activation. Substantial signal depression occurs through multiple mechanisms at this very first brainstem synapse onto second order NTS neurons. This review highlights new approaches to the study of these basic processes featuring patch clamp recordings in NTS brain slices and optical techniques with fluorescent tracers. The vanilloid receptor agonist, capsaicin, distinguishes two classes of second order neurons (capsaicin sensitive or capsaicin resistant) that appear to reflect unmyelinated and myelinated afferent pathways. The differences in cellular properties of these two classes of NTS neurons indicate clear functional differentiation at both the pre- and postsynaptic portions of these first synapses. By virtue of their position at the earliest stage of these pathways, such mechanistic differences probably impart important differentiation in the performance over the entire reflex pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-558
Number of pages10
JournalBrazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Autonomic
  • Glutamate
  • Potassium currents
  • Presynaptic modulation
  • Sensory
  • Vanilloid
  • Visceral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • Biophysics
  • General Neuroscience
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Differentiation of autonomic reflex control begins with cellular mechanisms at the first synapse within the nucleus tractus solitarius'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this