Increased discharge activity of mesopontine cholinergic neurons participates in the production of electroencephalographic (EEG) arousal; such arousal diminishes as a function of the duration of prior wakefulness or of brain hyperthermia. Whole-cell and extracellular recordings in a brainstem slice show that mesopontine cholinergic neurons are under the tonic inhibitory control of endogenous adenosine, a neuromodulator released during brain metabolism. This inhibitory tone is mediated postsynaptically by an inwardly rectifying potassium conductance and by an inhibition of the hyperpolarization-activated current. These data provide a coupling mechanism linking neuronal control of EEG arousal with the effects of prior wakefulness, brain hyperthermia, and the use of the adenosine receptor blockers caffeine and theophylline.
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