Areal distributions of cortical neurons projecting to different levels of the caudal brain stem and spinal cord in rats

Somatosens Mot Res. 1990;7(3):315-35. doi: 10.3109/08990229009144711.


Distributions of corticospinal and corticobulbar neurons were revealed by tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) processing after injections of wheatgerm agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA:HRP) into the cervical or lumbar enlargements of the spinal cord, or medullary or pontine levels of the brain stem. Sections reacted for cytochrome oxidase (CO) allowed patterns of labeled neurons to be related to the details of the body surface map in the first somatosensory cortical area (SI). The results indicate that a number of cortical areas project to these subcortical levels: (1) Projection neurons in granular SI formed a clear somatotopic pattern. The hindpaw region projected to the lumbar enlargement, the forepaw region to the cervical enlargement, the whisker pad field to the lower medulla, and the more rostral face region to more rostral brain stem levels. (2) Each zone of labeled neurons in SI extended into adjacent dysgranular somatosensory cortex, forming a second somatotopic pattern of projection neurons. (3) A somatotopic pattern of projection neurons in primary motor cortex (MI) paralleled SI in mediolateral sequence corresponding to the hindlimb, forelimb, and face. (4) A weak somatotopic pattern of projection neurons was suggested in medial agranular cortex (Agm), indicating a premotor field with a rostromedial-to-caudolateral representation of hindlimb, forelimb, and face. (5) A somatotopic pattern of projection neurons representing the foot to face in a mediolateral sequence was observed in medial parietal cortex (PM) located between SI and area 17. (6) In the second somatosensory cortical area (SII), neurons projecting to the brain stem were immediately adjacent caudolaterally to the barrel field of SI, whereas neurons projecting to the upper spinal cord were more lateral. No projection neurons in this region were labeled by the injections in the lower spinal cord. (7) Other foci of projection neurons for the face and forelimb were located rostral to SII, providing evidence for a parietal ventral area (PV) in perirhinal cortex (PR) lateral to SI, and in cortex between SII and PM. None of these regions, which may be higher-order somatosensory areas, contained labeled neurons after injections in the lower spinal cord. Thus, more cortical fields directly influence brain stem and spinal cord levels related to sensory and motor functions of the face and forepaw than the hindlimb. The termination patterns of corticospinal and corticobulbar projections were studied in other rats with injections of WGA:HRP in SI.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Forelimb / innervation
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Mechanoreceptors / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Pyramidal Tracts / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Skin / innervation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*