Conserved Patterns of Trigeminal Somatosensory System Organization in Mammals.
- Eva K Sawyer
- Brain, behavior and evolution
Somatosensory inputs from the face project to multiple regions of the trigeminal nuclear complex in the brainstem. In mice and rats, three subdivisions contain visible representations of the mystacial vibrissae, the principal sensory nucleus, spinal trigeminal subnucleus interpolaris, and subnucleus caudalis. These regions are considered important for touch with high spatial acuity, active touch, and pain and temperature sensation, respectively. Like mice and rats, the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a somatosensory specialist. Given the visible star pattern in preparations of the star-nosed mole cortex and the principal sensory nucleus, we hypothesized there were star patterns in the spinal trigeminal nucleus subnuclei interpolaris and caudalis. In sections processed for cytochrome oxidase, we found star-like segmentation consisting of lightly stained septa separating darkly stained patches in subnucleus interpolaris (juvenile tissue) and subnucleus caudalis (juvenile and adult tissue). Subnucleus caudalis represented the face in a three-dimensional map, with the most anterior part of the face represented more rostrally than posterior parts of the face. Multiunit electrophysiological mapping was used to map the ipsilateral face. Ray-specific receptive fields in adults matched the CO segmentation. The mean areas of multiunit receptive fields in subnucleus interpolaris and caudalis were larger than previously mapped receptive fields in the mole's principal sensory nucleus. The proportion of tissue devoted to each ray's representation differed between the subnucleus interpolaris and the principal sensory nucleus. Our finding that different trigeminal brainstem maps can exaggerate different parts of the face could provide new insights for the roles of these different somatosensory stations.