Long descending motor tract axons and their control of neck and axial muscles

Prog Brain Res. 2006;151:527-63. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(05)51017-3.


It has been tacitly assumed that a long descending motor tract axon consists of a private line connecting the cell of origin to a single muscle, as a motoneuron innervates a single muscle. However, this notion of a long descending motor tract referred to as a private line is no longer tenable, since recent studies have showed that axons of all major long descending motor tracts send their axon collaterals to multiple spinal segments, suggesting that they may exert simultaneous influences on different groups of spinal interneurons and motoneurons of multiple muscles. The long descending motor systems are divided into two groups, the medial and the lateral systems including interneurons and motoneurons. In this chapter, we focus mainly on the medial system (vestibulospinal, reticulospinal and tectospinal systems) in relation to movement control of the neck, describe the intraspinal morphologies of single long descending motor tract axons that are stained with intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase, and provide evidence that single long motor-tract neurons are implicated in the neural implementation of functional synergies for head movements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anterior Horn Cells / physiology
  • Anterior Horn Cells / ultrastructure
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cats
  • Efferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Interneurons / ultrastructure
  • Medulla Oblongata / anatomy & histology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neck
  • Neck Muscles / innervation*
  • Neck Muscles / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Thorax
  • Vestibular Nuclei / anatomy & histology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / physiology