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J Comp Neurol. 2003 Nov 3;466(1):31-47.

Central projections of the saccular and utricular nerves in macaques.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555, USA.


The central projections of the utricular and saccular nerve in macaques were examined using transganglionic labeling of vestibular afferent neurons. In these experiments, biotinylated dextran amine was injected directly into the saccular or utricular neuroepithelium of fascicularis (Macaca fascicularis) or rhesus (Macaca mulatta) monkeys. Two to 5 weeks later, the animals were killed and the peripheral vestibular sensory organs, brainstem, and cerebellum were collected for analysis. The principal brainstem areas of saccular nerve termination were lateral, particularly the spinal vestibular nucleus, the lateral portion of the superior vestibular nucleus, ventral nucleus y, the external cuneate nucleus, and cell group l. The principal cerebellar projection was to the uvula with a less dense projection to the nodulus. Principle brainstem areas of termination of the utricular nerve were the lateral/dorsal medial vestibular nucleus, ventral and lateral portions of the superior vestibular nucleus, and rostral portion of the spinal vestibular nucleus. In the cerebellum, a strong projection was observed to the nodulus and weak projections were present in the flocculus, ventral paraflocculus, bilateral fastigial nuclei, and uvula. Although there is extensive overlap of saccular and utricular projections, saccular inputs to the lateral portions of the vestibular nuclear complex suggest that saccular afferents contribute to the vestibulospinal system. In contrast, the utricular nerve projects more rostrally into areas of known concentration of vestibulo-ocular related cells. Although sparse, the projections of the utricle to the flocculus/ventral paraflocculus suggest a potential convergence with floccular projection inputs from the vestibular brainstem that have been implicated in vestibulo-ocular motor learning.

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