At birth (gestational day 16), the hamster infraorbital nerve projects to the appropriate portion of the brainstem, though the projection lacks adult-like internal organization (patchiness). Infraorbital nerve damage at this time does not produce appreciable transganglionic atrophy in the central projections of the infraorbital nerve, but it does result in a failure to develop normal infraorbital primary afferent patches. Such damage also produces a more widespread central projection of spared mandibular afferents into regions occupied by 'regenerate' infraorbital terminals (J. Comp. Neurol., 235 (1985) 129-143). In the present study, transganglionic transport techniques were again used to show that, by postnatal day 5 (gestational day 21), rostrocaudally continuous aggregates of horseradish peroxidase-labelled infraorbital terminals are visible throughout the trigeminal brainstem nuclear complex. This aggregation pattern is nearly adult-like and isomorphic with the distribution of the mystacial vibrissae on the face. A similar infraorbital lesion performed on postnatal day 5, however, markedly decreased the density of the adult central projection of the infraorbital nerve to subnuclei principalis, oralis, interpolaris, and the magnocellular laminae of caudalis. The projection to superficial laminae of caudalis and the cervical dorsal horn was maintained. A postnatal-day-5 infraorbital lesion also failed to produce a more widespread central projection from spared mandibular primary afferents. These data suggest a relationship between the postnatal maturity of trigeminal primary afferents and the response of damaged and undamaged trigeminal afferents to infraorbital nerve transection in hamster. The similarity in the central primary afferent response to lesions at equivalent gestational times (postnatal days 5 and 0, respectively) in hamster and rat, suggests that this plasticity gradient may be a general characteristic of mammalian trigeminal primary afferents.
- Nerve damage