A brainstem atlas of catecholaminergic neurons in man, using melanin as a natural marker

J Comp Neurol. 1981 Mar 20;197(1):63-80. doi: 10.1002/cne.901970106.


The present paper provides an atlas showing the distribution of melanin-containing nerve cells in the human brainstem. It was found that neuro-melanin, which can be viewed as a waste product of catecholamine metabolism, is suitable as a natural marker for catecholaminergic neurons in the medulla oblongata, pons, and te mesencephalon of the adult human brain. Within these areas of the brain, there is a striking similarity between the location of melanin and the catecholamine cell bodies described in various animals and in human fetuses, whereas no melanin was found in the diencephalic dopaminergic cell groups. Cell counts from the center of each area showed that the mean density of melanin-containing perikarya varied considerably between the different areas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Stem / anatomy & histology*
  • Catecholamines / physiology*
  • Diencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Medulla Oblongata / anatomy & histology
  • Melanins / analysis*
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pons / anatomy & histology


  • Catecholamines
  • Melanins