Mapping the face in the somatosensory brainstem

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Apr;11(4):252-63. doi: 10.1038/nrn2804. Epub 2010 Feb 24.


The facial somatosensory map in the cortex is derived from facial representations that are first established at the brainstem level and then serially 'copied' at each stage of the somatosensory pathway. Recent studies have provided insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of somatotopic maps of the face and whiskers in the trigeminal nuclei of the mouse brainstem. This work has revealed that early molecular regionalization and positional patterning of trigeminal ganglion and brainstem target neurons are established by homeodomain transcription factors, the expression of which is induced and maintained by signals from the brain and face. Such position-dependent information is fundamental in transforming the early spatial layout of sensory receptors into a topographic connectivity map that is conferred to higher brain levels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Face / innervation
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Trigeminal Ganglion / cytology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / physiology
  • Vibrissae / innervation


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Transcription Factors