Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 123, Issue 7, pp 731–736 | Cite as

Structural and functional considerations of the cholinergic brainstem

  • Juan Mena-Segovia
Translational Neurosciences - Review Article


Cholinergic neurons of the brainstem have traditionally been associated with a role in wakefulness as part of the reticular activating system, but their function cannot be explained solely on the basis of their modulation of the brain state. Recent findings about their connectivity and functional heterogeneity suggest a wider role in behavior, where basal ganglia is at the center of their influence. This review focuses on recent findings that suggest an intrinsic functional organization of the cholinergic brainstem that is closely correlated with its connectivity with midbrain and forebrain circuits. Furthermore, recent evidence on the temporal structure of the activation of brainstem cholinergic neurons reveals fundamental aspects about the nature of cholinergic signaling. Consideration of the cholinergic brainstem complex in the context of wider brain circuits is critical to understand its contribution to normal behavior.


Pedunculopontine Laterodorsal tegmental Cholinergic Reticular activating system Arousal Phasic 



I wish to thank J. Paul Bolam for comments on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Aidekman Research CenterRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA

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