Difference in projections to the lateral and medial facial nucleus: anatomically separate pathways for rhythmical vibrissa movement in rats

M. Isokawa-Akesson, B. R. Komisaruk

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78 Scopus citations


The present paper demonstrates that the lateral and medial subdivisions of the rat facial motor nucleus (NVII) receive differing mesencephalic and metencephalic projections. In order to study brain projections to facial nucleus, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was injected iontophoretically into the entire facial nucleus or the following subdivisions: lateral, dorsolateral, medial, intermediate, and ventral. In the mesencephalic region, the retrorubral nucleus was found to project to the contralateral medial subdivision of NVII, while the red nucleus was found to project to the contralateral lateral subdivision of NVII. Other mesencephalic projections to the facial nucleus arose from the deep mesencephalic nucleus, oculomotor nucleus, central gray including inter stitial nucleus of Cajal and nucleus Darkschewitsch, superior colliculus and substantia nigra (reticular). In the metencephalic region, the Kölliker-Fuse nucleus, parabrachial nucleus, and the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus projected mainly to the ipsilateral lateral subdivision of NVII. In addition, the trapezoid, pontine reticular, vestibular, and motor trigeminal nuclei were observed to have predominantly ipsilateral connections to the facial nucleus. In contrast, projections from the myelencephalic region were to both the lateral and medial subdivision of NVII. The medullary reticular nucleus, ambiguus nucleus, spinal trigeminal nucleus and parvocellular reticular nucleus projected to both lateral and medial subdivisions of NVII with an ipsilateral predominance. The gigantocellular and paragigantocellular reticular nuclei, raphe magnus, external cuneate nucleus and the nucleus of the solitary tract also projected to the facial motor nucleus. Surprisingly, no direct projections to the NVII were observed from diencephalic and telencephalic regions. Our findings that the lateral subdivision of NVII which innervates vibrissa-pad-muscles (Dom et al. 1973; Martin and Lodge 1977; Watson et al. 1982) receives different metencephalic and mesencephalic projections than medial subdivision which controls pinna movement (Henkel and Edwards 1978), suggest that the functional difference between these subdivisions is mediated by the anatomically separate pathways. We confirmed our anatomical findings by eliciting exclusively vibrissa responses by electrical stimulation of the nuclei which project to the lateral subdivision of NVII.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-398
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Differing afferent projection
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Facial subnucleus
  • HRP
  • Iontophoresis
  • Rat brainstem
  • Vibrissa movement


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