Funicular organization of avian brainstem-spinal projections

J Comp Neurol. 1991 Oct 15;312(3):467-76. doi: 10.1002/cne.903120312.


The purpose of this study was to determine which reticulospinal projections need to be preserved to allow voluntary walking and to differentiate between those pathways descending within the ventrolateral funiculus versus the ventromedial funiculus. Retrogradely transported tracers (True Blue, Fast Blue, Diamidino Yellow dihydrochloride, fluorescein-conjugated dextran-amines) were used alone as discrete funicular injections (4-5 microliters) into the lumbar cord (L1), or in conjunction with a more rostral subtotal lesion of the low thoracic cord, to determine the trajectories of brainstem-spinal projections in adult ducks and geese. No difference was found between the species. The major components of the ventromedial funiculus include projections from the medullary reticular formation, pontine reticular formation, raphe obscurus and pallidus, lateral vestibular nucleus, and interstitial nucleus, and to a minor extent from the locus coeruleus, lateral hypothalamus, and nucleus periventricularis hypothalami. The components of the ventrolateral funiculus (VLF) include projections from the nucleus of the solitary tract, nucleus alatus, pontomedullary reticular formation, raphe pallidus, raphe magnus, locus coeruleus, subcoeruleus, lateral vestibular, and descending vestibular nuclei. The principal descending projections within the dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) arose from the red nucleus, the paraventricular nucleus, locus coeruleus, subcoeruleus, dorsal division of the caudal medullary reticular formation, and raphe magnus. The functional implications of the distribution of these descending pathways are discussed with regard to locomotion. Since birds were able to walk despite bilateral lesion of the DLF or VMF but were unable to walk following a bilateral lesion of the VLF, this suggests that medullary reticulospinal pathways coursing within the VLF are essential for the provision of locomotor drive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amidines
  • Animals
  • Birds / anatomy & histology*
  • Birds / physiology
  • Brain Stem / cytology*
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Amidines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • diamidino compound 253-50