Background: Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response is a measure of the inhibitory function and time-linked information processing by which a weak sensory stimulus (the prepulse) inhibits the startle response caused by a sudden intense stimulus. We attempted to clarify the neuronal circuits underlying the control of PPI of the startle reflex in mice. Methods: c-Fos immunohistochemistry was used to detect neurons activated by startle pulse and/or prepulse trials. Behavioural pharmacology and tracing studies were also conducted. Results: The lateral globus pallidus (LGP) was activated by prepulses. Activation of the caudal pontine reticular nucleus (PnC) evoked by the startle pulses was inhibited under PPI conditions. Double-immunostaining revealed that c-Fos-positive cells in the LGP following prepulse trials were GABAergic neurons. Bilateral microinjections of lidocaine into the LGP resulted in an impairment of PPI. Fluoro-gold infusion into the PnC and the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) retrogradely labeled neurons in the PPTg and LGP, respectively. Microinjections of phaclofen into the PPTg significantly impaired PPI. Conclusions: These results suggest that GABAergic neurons in the LGP which project to the PPTg play a crucial role through the activation of GABAB receptors in the regulation of PPI of the startle reflex in mice.
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