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Neuroscience. 2009 Nov 10;163(4):1158-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.07.036. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

Reticulospinal neurons in the pontomedullary reticular formation of the monkey (Macaca fascicularis).

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Recent neurophysiological studies indicate a role for reticulospinal neurons of the pontomedullary reticular formation (PMRF) in motor preparation and goal-directed reaching in the monkey. Although the macaque monkey is an important model for such investigations, little is known regarding the organization of the PMRF in the monkey. In the present study, we investigated the distribution of reticulospinal neurons in the macaque. Bilateral injections of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) were made into the cervical spinal cord. A wide band of retrogradely labeled cells was found in the gigantocellular reticular nucleus (Gi) and labeled cells continued rostrally into the caudal pontine reticular nucleus (PnC) and into the oral pontine reticular nucleus (PnO). Additional retrograde tracing studies following unilateral cervical spinal cord injections of cholera toxin subunit B revealed that there were more ipsilateral (60%) than contralateral (40%) projecting cells in Gi, while an approximately 50:50 ratio contralateral to ipsilateral split was found in PnC and more contralateral projections arose from PnO. Reticulospinal neurons in PMRF ranged widely in size from over 50 microm to under 25 microm across the major somatic axis. Labeled giant cells (soma diameters greater than 50 microm) comprised a small percentage of the neurons and were found in Gi, PnC and PnO. The present results define the origins of the reticulospinal system in the monkey and provide an important foundation for future investigations of the anatomy and physiology of this system in primates.

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