Trigeminal structure-function relationships: A reevaluation based on long-range staining of a large sample of brainstem AP fibers

Peter J. Shortland, Joseph A. Demaro, Mark F. Jacquin

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8 Scopus citations


Prior studies suggest that some classes of thickly myelinated (Aβ afferents have distinct morphologies in the trigeminal (V) brainstem complex, and that single fibers have collaterals with different shapes in the four V subnuclei. However, these conclusions are based upon relatively few and incompletely stained fibers and limited statistical rigor. In the present study, 104 fibers were stained more completely with neurobiotin in rats to provide within-fiber intersubnucleus comparisons, and between-fiber intrasubnucleus comparisons, of collaterals associated with a vibrissa, guard hairs, hairy skin, glabrous skin, or oral structures. Collaterals from all functional categories had similar qualitative features and were distributed somatotopically in the transverse plane according to known maps. Fiber categories were not disproportionately represented at particular sites along the brainstem's rostrocaudal axis, although most fibers adhered to an onion-leaf topography in caudalis. Surprisingly few structure-function relationships were revealed by multivariate analysis of variance and post hoc group comparisons, as follows: Arbors were larger in caudalis than in any other subnucleus; collaterals were most numerous in interpolaris; vibrissa afferents had more collaterals than oral and guard hair afferents; and oral fibers had larger arbors than vibrissa or guard hair afferents in subnucleus oralis. Peripheral receptor association and response adaptation rate failed to predict arbor shapes and terminal bouton numbers in any V subnucleus. These data confirm that the locations of V primary afferent arbors are predicted by their receptive fields. However, collateral number and morphology are predicted only to a very limited extent by the V subnucleus and peripheral receptor affiliation-a conclusion that contrasts with those of most prior studies of somatosensory primary afferents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-275
Number of pages27
JournalSomatosensory & Motor Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1995


  • Barrel
  • Neurobiotin
  • Somatosensory
  • Trigeminal
  • Whisker


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