Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Gate 11 Royal Parade, 3052 Parkville, University of Melbourne Victoria, Australia; Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, Royal parade, University of Melbourne Victoria, 3052 Parkville, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]
The perfused working heart brainstem preparation of rodents has become a widely used tool to study brainstem function. Here, we adapt this experimental technique for newborn guinea pigs (postnatal day 7-14) to develop a tool that enables investigation of airway defense mechanisms not observed in other rodents. The perfused guinea pig brainstem preparation generates a stable eupnea-like motor pattern recorded from the phrenic, recurrent laryngeal and intercostal nerves and basic cardio-respiratory reflexes, including the arterial chemoreceptor, the baroreceptor reflex. In addition a fictive laryngeal cough reflex can be reliably elicited after mechanical stimulation of the trachea. Single unit recordings within the ponto-medullary respiratory column show robust central respiratory neuronal activity. Additionally, as in other species ponto-medullary transection of the brainstem produces apneusis. The latter suggests that the preparation fully preserves ponto-medullary synaptic connectivity that is required for eupnea-like respiratory rhythm and pattern formation and the mediation of various cardio-respiratory reflexes. We conclude that this novel research tool provides an alternative to established rat and mouse preparations and may become a experimental tool for the investigation of central mechanisms that mediate laryngeal cough.