Effect of acute ammonia intoxication on energy stores in the cerebral reticular activating system

David W. McCandless, Steven Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Ammonia intoxication causes loss of consciousness. One postulated mechanism for this stipulates impaired energy metabolism in critical brain sites. The ascending reticular activating system in the brainstem may modulate consciousness. Accordingly, the present study, using micromethods, assessed energy stores in cells from the reticular activating system of mice acutely intoxicated with ammonia. In the early coma period (3.5 min after ammonia) phosphocreatine, adenosine triphosphate and glucose fell significantly while glycogen decreased later. Subsequently during coma, the high energy phosphates returned to normal and supranormal. The maximal fall in these metabolites was not accompanied by a rise in lactate, implying lack of local hypoxia or acidosis. The cells of the posterior colliculus in the same animals failed to show a significant fall in energy stores. These data suggest a selective effect of ammonia on energy metabolism in the cells of the reticular activating system of the brainstem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-330
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenosine triphosphate
  • Ammonia
  • Brainstem
  • Coma
  • Energy metabolism
  • Phosphocreatine
  • Reticular activating system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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