A thermoregulatory role for the medullary raphe in birds
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The brainstem region medullary raphe modulates non-shivering and shivering thermogenesis and cutaneous vasomotion in rodents. Whether the same scenario occurs in the other endothermic group, i.e. birds, is still unknown. Therefore, we hypothesized that the medullary raphe modulates heat gain and loss thermoeffectors in birds. We investigated the effect of glutamatergic and GABAergic inhibition in this specific region on body temperature (Tb), oxygen consumption (thermogenesis), ventilation (O2 supply in cold, thermal tachypnea in heat) and heat loss index (cutaneous vasomotion) in 1 week old chicken exposed to neutral (31°C), cold (26°C) and hot (36°C) conditions. Intra-medullary raphe antagonism of NMDA glutamate (AP5; 0.5, 5 mmol l−1) and GABAA (bicuculline; 0.05, 0.5 mmol l−1) receptors reduced Tb of chicks at 31 and 26°C, mainly as a result of an O2 consumption decrease. AP5 transiently increased breathing frequency during cold exposure. At 31°C, heat loss index was higher in the bicuculline and AP5 groups (higher doses) than in the saline groups at the beginning of the Tb reduction. No treatment affected any variable tested at 36°C. The results suggest that glutamatergic and GABAergic excitatory influences on the medullary raphe of chicks modulate thermogenesis, and glutamatergic stimulation prevents tachypnea, without having any role in warmth-defense responses. A double excitation influence on the medullary raphe may provide a protective neural mechanism for supporting thermogenesis during early life, when energy expenditure to support growth and homeothermy is high. This novel demonstration of a thermoregulatory role for the raphe in birds suggests a convergent brainstem neurochemical regulation of Tb in endotherms.