Brainstem nucleus MdV mediates skilled forelimb motor tasks

Nature. 2014 Apr 17;508(7496):351-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13023. Epub 2014 Feb 2.


Translating the behavioural output of the nervous system into movement involves interaction between brain and spinal cord. The brainstem provides an essential bridge between the two structures, but circuit-level organization and function of this intermediary system remain poorly understood. Here we use intersectional virus tracing and genetic strategies in mice to reveal a selective synaptic connectivity matrix between brainstem substructures and functionally distinct spinal motor neurons that regulate limb movement. The brainstem nucleus medullary reticular formation ventral part (MdV) stands out as specifically targeting subpopulations of forelimb-innervating motor neurons. Its glutamatergic premotor neurons receive synaptic input from key upper motor centres and are recruited during motor tasks. Selective neuronal ablation or silencing experiments reveal that MdV is critically important specifically for skilled motor behaviour, including accelerating rotarod and single-food-pellet reaching tasks. Our results indicate that distinct premotor brainstem nuclei access spinal subcircuits to mediate task-specific aspects of motor programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Forelimb / innervation*
  • Forelimb / physiology*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / anatomy & histology
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Reticular Formation / anatomy & histology*
  • Reticular Formation / cytology*
  • Rotarod Performance Test
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Synapses / metabolism