Changes in the release of amino acid neurotransmitters in the brains of calves and sheep after head-only electrical stunning and throat cutting

C. J. Cook, S. A. Maasland, C. E. Devine, K. V. Gilbert, D. K. Blackmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


In calves aged two to five months, throat cutting resulted in an increase in the concentration of the amino acid neurotransmitters glutamate and aspartate in the brain. Electrical head-only stunning by itself also increased the concentrations of these two neurotransmitters. The levels induced by stunning resulted in a seizure state characterised by epileptiform-like activity in the electroencephalograph. Combing head-only stunning with throat cutting within 10 seconds of the stun had a synergistic effect upon glutamate and aspartate, increasing their concentration by a greater amount and more quickly than either procedure on its own. An irreversible loss of brain function also occurred more quickly than after throat cutting alone. The administration of glutamate and aspartate receptor antagonists before the throat cutting lengthened the time to the loss of brain function in a dose dependent manner. Similar changes were observed in sheep but they occurred much more quickly than in cattle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-261
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in Veterinary Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


Cite this