Coordinated autonomic and respiratory responses evoked by alerting stimuli: Role of the midbrain colliculi

Flávia C F Müller-Ribeiro*, Ann K. Goodchild, Simon McMullan, Marco A P Fontes, Roger A L Dampney

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Threatening stimuli trigger rapid and coordinated behavioral responses supported by cardiorespiratory changes. The midbrain colliculi can generate coordinated orienting or defensive behavioral responses, and it has been proposed that collicular neurons also generate appropriate cardiovascular and respiratory responses to support such behaviors. We have shown previously that under conditions where collicular neurons are disinhibited, coordinated cardiovascular, somatomotor and respiratory responses can be evoked independently of the cortex by auditory, visual and somatosensory stimuli. Here we report that these natural stimuli effectively increase inspiratory time most likely though phase switching. As a result the pattern of phrenic and sympathetic coupling is an inspiratory-related sympathoexcitation. We propose that blockade of tonic GABAergic input in the midbrain colliculi permits alerting stimuli to drive command neurons that generate coordinated cardiovascular, respiratory and motor outputs. The outputs of these command neurons likely interact with the central respiratory pattern generator, however the precise output pathways mediating the coordinated autonomic and respiratory responses remain to be determined.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)87-93
    Number of pages7
    JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


    • Alerting response
    • Command neuron
    • Inferior colliculus
    • Respiratory activity
    • Respiratory-sympathetic coupling
    • Superior colliculus

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