Brainstem Circuits Controlling Action Diversification

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2019 Jul 8:42:485-504. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-070918-050201.


Neuronal circuits that regulate movement are distributed throughout the nervous system. The brainstem is an important interface between upper motor centers involved in action planning and circuits in the spinal cord ultimately leading to execution of body movements. Here we focus on recent work using genetic and viral entry points to reveal the identity of functionally dedicated and frequently spatially intermingled brainstem populations essential for action diversification, a general principle conserved throughout evolution. Brainstem circuits with distinct organization and function control skilled forelimb behavior, orofacial movements, and locomotion. They convey regulatory parameters to motor output structures and collaborate in the construction of complex natural motor behaviors. Functionally tuned brainstem neurons for different actions serve as important integrators of synaptic inputs from upstream centers, including the basal ganglia and cortex, to regulate and modulate behavioral function in different contexts.

Keywords: brainstem; locomotion; motor control; neuronal cell types; orofacial behavior; skilled forelimb movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*