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The Journal of comparative neurology

Feedback in the brainstem: an excitatory disynaptic pathway for control of whisking.


PMID 25503925

Abstract

Sensorimotor processing relies on hierarchical neuronal circuits to mediate sensory-driven behaviors. In the mouse vibrissa system, trigeminal brainstem circuits are thought to mediate the first stage of vibrissa scanning control via sensory feedback that provides reflexive protraction in response to stimulation. However, these circuits are not well defined. Here we describe a complete disynaptic sensory receptor-to-muscle circuit for positive feedback in vibrissa movement. We identified a novel region of trigeminal brainstem, spinal trigeminal nucleus pars muralis, which contains a class of vGluT2+ excitatory projection neurons involved in vibrissa motor control. Complementary single- and dual-labeling with traditional and virus tracers demonstrate that these neurons both receive primary inputs from vibrissa sensory afferent fibers and send monosynaptic connections to facial nucleus motoneurons that directly innervate vibrissa musculature. These anatomical results suggest a general role of disynaptic architecture in fast positive feedback for motor output that drives active sensation.

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