Taste activity in the parabrachial region in adult rats following neonatal chorda tympani transection

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Journal of Neurophysiology


The chorda tympani is a gustatory nerve that fails to regenerate if sectioned in rats 10 days of age or younger. This early denervation causes an abnormally high preference for NH4Cl in adult rats, but the impact of neonatal chorda tympani transection on the development of the gustatory hindbrain is unclear. Here, we tested the effect of neonatal chorda tympani transection (CTX) on gustatory responses in the parabrachial nucleus (PbN). We recorded in vivo extracellular spikes in single PbN units of urethane- anesthetized adult rats following CTX at P5 (chronic CTX group) or immediately prior to recording (acute CTX group). Thus, all sampled PbN neurons received indirect input from taste nerves other than the CT. Compared to acute CTX rats, chronic CTX animals had significantly higher responses to stimulation with 0.1 and 0.5M NH4Cl, 0.1 and 0.5 M NaCl, and 0.01M citric acid. Activity to 0.5M sucrose and 0.01M quinine stimulation was not significantly different between groups. Neurons from chronic CTX animals also had larger interstimulus correlations and significantly higher entropy, suggesting that neurons in this group were more likely to be activated by stimulation with multiple tastants. Although neural responses were higher in the PbN of chronic CTX rats compared to acute-sectioned controls, taste-evoked activity was much lower than observed in previous reports, suggesting permanent deficits in taste signaling. These findings demonstrate that the developing gustatory hindbrain exhibits high functional plasticity following early nerve injury.

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