Serotonergic systems associated with arousal and vigilance behaviors following administration of anxiogenic drugs

J. K. Abrams, P. L. Johnson, A. Hay-Schmidt, J. D. Mikkelsen, A. Shekhar, C. A. Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

157 Scopus citations


Serotonergic systems play important roles in modulating behavioral arousal, including behavioral arousal and vigilance associated with anxiety states. To further our understanding of the neural systems associated with increases in anxiety states, we investigated the effects of multiple anxiogenic drugs on topographically organized subpopulations of serotonergic neurons using double immunohistochemical staining for c-Fos and tryptophan hydroxylase combined with topographical analysis of the rat dorsal raphe nucleus (DR). Anxiogenic drugs with diverse pharmacological properties including the adenosine receptor antagonist caffeine, the serotonin 5-HT2A/2C receptor agonist m-chlorophenyl piperazine (mCPP), the α2-adrenoreceptor antagonist yohimbine, and the benzodiazepine receptor partial inverse agonist N-methyl-beta-carboline-3-carboxamide (FG-7142) induced increases in behavioral arousal and vigilance behaviors consistent with an increase in anxiety state. In addition, these anxiogenic drugs, excluding yohimbine, had convergent actions on an anatomically-defined subset of serotonergic neurons within the middle and caudal, dorsal subdivision of the DR. High resolution topographical analysis revealed that at the mid-rostrocaudal level, caffeine and FG-7142 had convergent effects on c-Fos expression in serotonergic neurons that were restricted to a previously undefined region, which we have named the shell region of the dorsal part of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRDSh), that overlaps the anatomical border between the dorsal part of the dorsal raphe nucleus, the ventral part of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRV), and the ventrolateral part of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRVL). Retrograde tracing methods revealed that DRDSh contains large numbers of neurons projecting to the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus, a forebrain structure important for emotional appraisal and modulation of anxiety-related physiological and behavioral responses. Together these findings support the hypothesis that there is a functional topographical organization in the DR and are consistent with the hypothesis that anxiogenic drugs have selective actions on a subpopulation of serotonergic neurons projecting to a distributed central autonomic and emotional motor control system regulating anxiety states and anxiety-related physiological and behavioral responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-997
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Anxiety
  • Basolateral amygdala
  • c-Fos
  • Dorsal raphe nucleus
  • Retrograde tracing
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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