Anatomic, physiologic and behavioral evidence suggests that the neurons in the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis of the medial medullary reticular formation may act as a relay station for the transmission of nociceptive information from the spinal cord to higher brain centers. The nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis may also be the site of action of analgesic agents, such as ketamine hydrochloride. Utilizing extracellular microelectrodes in 23 decerebrate cats, the authors measured the effect of ketamine on neurons in the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis that were excited by electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves. The frequency of spontaneous single-unit firing activity in the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis was suppressed by 31 +/- 11 (x +/- I SE) and by 62 +/- 7 per cent with ketamine, 1.0 and 2.5 mg/kg, iv, respectively. The frequency of evoked single-unit activity was suppressed by 57 +/- 9 and 79 +/- 5 per cent with ketamine, 1.0 and 2.5 mg/kg, respectively. Ketamine produces significant depression of single-unit activity of the cells in the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis, suggesting that this may be an important site of its analgesic action.
(C) 1979 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.