Muscle architecture in the mystacial pad of the rat

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2010 Jul;293(7):1192-206. doi: 10.1002/ar.21156.


The vibrissal system of the rat is an example of active tactile sensing, and has recently been used as a prototype in construction of touch-oriented robots. Active vibrissal exploration and touch are enabled and controlled by musculature of the mystacial pad. So far, knowledge about motor control of the rat vibrissal system has been extracted from what is known about the vibrissal systems of other species, mainly mice and hamsters, since a detailed description of the musculature of the rat mystacial pad was lacking. In the present work, the musculature of the rat mystacial pad was revealed by slicing the mystacial pad in four different planes, staining of mystacial pad slices for cytochrome oxidase, and tracking spatial organization of mystacial pad muscles in consecutive slices. We found that the rat mystacial pad contains four superficial extrinsic muscles and five parts of the M. nasolabialis profundus. The connection scheme of the three parts of the M. nasolabialis profundus is described here for the first time. These muscles are inserted into the plate of the mystacial pad, and thus, their contraction causes whisker retraction. All the muscles of the rat mystacial pad contained three types of skeletal striated fibers (red, white, and intermediate). Although the entire rat mystacial pad usually functions as unity, our data revealed its structural segmentation into nasal and maxillary subdivisions. The mechanisms of whisking in the rat, and hypotheses concerning biomechanical interactions during whisking, are discussed with respect to the muscle architecture of the rat mystacial pad.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Vibrissae / anatomy & histology