The anatomy of the vestibular nuclei

Prog Brain Res. 2006;151:157-203. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(05)51006-9.


The vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve informs the brain about the linear and angular movements of the head in space and the position of the head with respect to gravity. The termination sites of these eighth nerve afferents define the territory of the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem. (There is also a subset of afferents that project directly to the cerebellum.) This chapter reviews the anatomical organization of the vestibular nuclei, and the anatomy of the pathways from the nuclei to various target areas in the brain. The cytoarchitectonics of the vestibular brainstem are discussed, since these features have been used to distinguish the individual nuclei. The neurochemical phenotype of vestibular neurons and pathways are also summarized because the chemical anatomy of the system contributes to its signal-processing capabilities. Similarly, the morphologic features of short-axon local circuit neurons and long-axon cells with extrinsic projections are described in detail, since these structural attributes of the neurons are critical to their functional potential. Finally, the composition and hodology of the afferent and efferent pathways of the vestibular nuclei are discussed. In sum, this chapter reviews the morphology, chemoanatomy, connectivity, and synaptology of the vestibular nuclei.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Interneurons / ultrastructure
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / analysis
  • Ranidae
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / analysis
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology
  • Reticular Formation / anatomy & histology
  • Semicircular Canals / innervation
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Vestibular Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Vestibular Nerve / chemistry
  • Vestibular Nerve / physiology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Vestibular Nuclei / chemistry
  • Vestibular Nuclei / cytology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / physiology
  • Vestibular Nucleus, Lateral / cytology
  • Vestibular Nucleus, Lateral / physiology


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I