Identification and connections of inspiratory premotor neurons in songbirds and budgerigar

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Feb 9;391(2):147-63.


Recordings of extracellular unit activity in the ventrolateral medulla and of electromyographic activity in either the M. scalenus, a principal inspiratory muscle, or the abdominal expiratory muscles, were used to identify inspiratory related (IR) neurons. IR neurons extended from levels caudal to the obex through the caudal level of the descending vestibular nucleus. This distribution was found to correspond to that of a subset of cells retrogradely labeled from injections of neuronal tracers into the upper thoracic spinal cord, where motoneurons innervating the M. scalenus were located by retrograde transport. Injections of biotinylated dextran amine at the recording sites resulted in projections to the spinal cord and brainstem. Bulbospinal axons traveled in the lateral funiculus, predominantly contralaterally, and terminated in relation to the dendrites and cell bodies of motoneurons innervating the M. scalenus. Brainstem nuclei receiving projections from injections at IR loci included the retroambigualis, tracheosyringeal motor nucleus, ventrolateral nucleus of the rostral medulla, infraolivaris superior, ventrolateral parabrachial nucleus, and the dorsomedial nucleus of the intercollicular complex. In the finches, there were also bilateral projections to nucleus uvaeformis of the posterior thalamus. The spinal and brainstem projections are similar to those found in pigeon (Reinke and Wild, [1997] J. Comp. Neurol. 379:347-362), and probably mediate the intricate coordination of the vocal (syringeal) and respiratory systems for the control of vocalization. The distribution of IR neurons in birds is similar to that of the rostral ventral respiratory group (rVRG) in mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Columbidae / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*