Stereotyped Yawning Responses Induced by Electrical and Chemical Stimulation of Paraventricular Nucleus of the Rat

Ikuko Sato-Suzuki, Ichiro Kita, Mitsugu Oguri, Hideho Arita


Sato-Suzuki, Ikuko, Ichiro Kita, Mitsugu Oguri, and Hideho Arita. Stereotyped yawning responses induced by electrical and chemical stimulation of paraventricular nucleus of the rat. J. Neurophysiol. 80: 2765–2775, 1998. Yawning was evoked by electrical or chemical stimulation in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats. To evaluate physiological aspects of yawning, we monitored polygraphic measures as follows; a coordinated motor pattern of yawning was assessed by monitoring breathing [intercostal electromyogram (EMG)], mouth opening (digastric EMG), and stretching of the trunk (back EMG). We also recorded blood pressure (BP), heart rate, and the electrocorticogram (ECoG) to evaluate autonomic function and arousal responses during yawning. A stereotyped yawning response was reproducibly evoked by electrical stimulation or microinjection of l-glutamate or NOC-7, a nitric oxide (NO)-releasing compound, into the PVN. The stereotyped yawning response consisted of two sequential events, an initial response represented a depressor response and an arousal shift in the ECoG to lower voltage and faster rhythms. These initial changes were followed by a yawning behavior characterized by a single large inspiration with mouth opening and stretching of the trunk. A similar sequence of events occurred during spontaneous yawning; a fall in BP and ECoG arousal preceded a yawning behavior. An increase in the frequency of spontaneous yawns was also observed after microinjection of l-glutamate or NOC-7 into the PVN. Intravenous administration of NG-monomethyl-l-arginine, an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), prevented the stereotyped yawning response evoked by chemical stimulation of the PVN. Histological examination revealed that effective sites for the yawning responses were located in the medial part of the rostral PVN, the site of parvocellular and magnocellular neurons. NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry showed the existence of NOS-containing cells in yawning-evoked sites of the PVN. In summary, the sequential events of yawning may be generated by NOS-containing parvocellular neurons in the medial part of the rostral PVN projecting to the lower brain stem.


  • Address for reprint requests: H. Arita, Dept. of Physiology, Toho University School of Medicine, 5-21-16. Omori-nishi, Ota-ku, Tokyo 143-8540, Japan.

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