The ascending pathway mediating proprioception from the orofacial region is still not fully known. The present study elucidated the relay of jaw-closing muscle spindle (JCMS) inputs from brainstem to thalamus in rats. We injected an anterograde tracer into the electrophysiologically identified supratrigeminal nucleus (Su5), known to receive JCMS input. Many thalamic axon terminals were labeled and were found mainly contralaterally in a small, unpredicted area of the caudo-ventromedial edge (VPMcvm) of ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus (VPM). Electrical stimulation of the masseter nerve and passive jaw movements induced large responses in the VPMcvm. The VPMcvm is far from the rostrodorsal part of ventral posterolateral thalamic nucleus (VPL) where proprioceptive inputs from the body are represented. After injection of a retrograde tracer into the electrophysiologically identified VPMcvm, many neurons were labeled almost exclusively in the contralateral Su5, whereas no labeled neurons were found in the principal sensory trigeminal nucleus (Pr5) and spinal trigeminal nucleus (Sp5). In contrast, after injection of a retrograde tracer into the core of VPM, many neurons were labeled contralaterally in the Pr5 and Sp5, but none in the Su5. We conclude that JCMS input excites trigeminothalamic projection neurons in the Su5 which project primarily to the VPMcvm in marked contrast to other proprioceptors and sensory receptors in the orofacial region which project to the core VPM. These findings suggest that lesions or deep brain stimulation in the human equivalent of VPMcvm may be useful for treatment of movement disorders (e.g., orofacial tremor) without affecting other sensations.
Brain Structure and Function – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 5, 2017
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