Medial vestibular connections with the hypocretin (orexin) system

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Jun 27;487(2):127-46. doi: 10.1002/cne.20521.


The mammalian medial vestibular nucleus (MVe) receives input from all vestibular endorgans and provides extensive projections to the central nervous system. Recent studies have demonstrated projections from the MVe to the circadian rhythm system. In addition, there are known projections from the MVe to regions considered to be involved in sleep and arousal. In this study, afferent and efferent subcortical connectivity of the medial vestibular nucleus of the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) was evaluated using cholera toxin subunit-B (retrograde), Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (anterograde), and pseudorabies virus (transneuronal retrograde) tract-tracing techniques. The results demonstrate MVe connections with regions mediating visuomotor and postural control, as previously observed in other mammals. The data also identify extensive projections from the MVe to regions mediating arousal and sleep-related functions, most of which receive immunohistochemically identified projections from the lateral hypothalamic hypocretin (orexin) neurons. These include the locus coeruleus, dorsal and pedunculopontine tegmental nuclei, dorsal raphe, and lateral preoptic area. The MVe itself receives a projection from hypocretin cells. CTB tracing demonstrated reciprocal connections between the MVe and most brain areas receiving MVe efferents. Virus tracing confirmed and extended the MVe afferent connections identified with CTB and additionally demonstrated transneuronal connectivity with the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the medial habenular nucleus. These anatomical data indicate that the vestibular system has access to a broad array of neural functions not typically associated with visuomotor, balance, or equilibrium, and that the MVe is likely to receive information from many of the same regions to which it projects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cholera Toxin / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Orexins
  • Phytohemagglutinins / metabolism
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / metabolism*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Cholera Toxin