Cell structure and response properties in the trigeminal subnucleus oralis

Mark F. Jacquin, Robert W. Rhoadesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


Extra- and intracellular recording, electrical stimulation, receptive field mapping, and horseradish peroxidase injection techniques were used to study the structure of functionally identified neurons in trigeminal (V) brainstem subnucleus oralis of the rat. Of 15 heavily labeled cells located within oralis, 4 were local-circuit neurons with receptive fields restricted to either an incisor, guard hairs, one vibrissa, or deep facial tissue (nociceptors). Their morphologies were highly varied, with expansive and spiny dendritic trees and recurrent and intersubnuclear axon collaterals. Oralis local-circuit neurons therefore most closely resembled non-vibrissa-sensitive local-circuit cells in adjacent subnucleus interpolaris. Six other stained cells projected to contralateral thalamus, and two others projected to ipsilateral cerebellum. They typically had intramodality convergent receptive fields (i.e., spanning more than one receptor organ, such as multiple vibrissae or teeth) with widespread dendritic trees, and were therefore indistinguishable from similarly projecting cells in interpolaris. Two other cells projected to the ipsilateral spinal cord, as well as other V brainstem subnuclei. One of these responded to high-threshold mechanical stimulation of teeth; the other was discharged by deflection of one mystacial vibrissa. Their dendrites were very widespread and ended in spiny and bulbous appendages. Local axon collaterals were also extensive. The remaining oralis cell had two axons, one projecting to the thalamus, the other to the spinal cord. Its receptive field expressed convergence from multiple receptor organs, including vibrissae, guard hairs, and skin. Its somadendritic morphology was similar to that of oralis cells projecting only to thalamus. We conclude that, with some exceptions, the extensive dendritic trees, axon branching, convergence, and functional diversity of oralis cells approximate those described previously for functionally equivalent neurons in interpolaris (Jacquin et al., 1989a,b). Such anatomical and physiological properties are rarely seen, however, in nucleus principalis (Jacquin et al., 1988a). The structure and function of three atypical principalis cells with structural and functional characteristics typical of oralis cells are also described. It is argued that such cells are rostrally displaced oralis cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-288
Number of pages24
JournalSomatosensory & Motor Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Local circuit
  • Oralis
  • Receptive field
  • Spinal cord
  • Thalamus
  • Trigeminal

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