Rodents shift their nose from side to side when they actively explore and lateralize odors in the space. This motor action is driven by a pair of muscles, the deflector nasi. We studied the premotor control of this motion. We used replication-competent rabies virus to transsynaptically label inputs to the deflector nasi muscle and find putative premotor labeling throughout the parvocellular, intermediate, and gigantocellular reticular formations, as well as the trigeminal nuclei, pontine reticular formation, midbrain reticular formation, red nucleus, and superior colliculus. Two areas with extensive labeling were analyzed for their impact on nose movement. One area is in the reticular formation caudal to the facial motor nucleus and is denoted the nose retrofacial area. The second is in the caudal part of the intermediate reticular region near the oscillator for whisking (the nose IRt). Functionally, we find that optogenetic activation of glutamatergic cells in both areas drives deflection of the nose. Ablation of cells in the nose retrofacial area, but not the nose IRt, impairs movement of the nose in response to the presentation of odorants but otherwise leaves movement unaffected. These data suggest that the nose retrofacial area is a conduit for a sensory-driven orofacial motor action. Furthermore, we find labeling of neurons that are immediately upstream of premotor neurons in the preBötzinger complex that presumably synchronizes a small, rhythmic component of nose motion to breathing. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We identify two previously undescribed premotor areas in the medulla that control deflection of the nose. This includes a pathway for directed motion of the nose in response to an odorant.
Keywords: medulla; nose; orofacial; premotor; sensorimotor.