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See 1 citation in Pnas 2010 by Heyers:

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 May 18;107(20):9394-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907068107. Epub 2010 May 3.

Magnetic field changes activate the trigeminal brainstem complex in a migratory bird.

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Arbeitsgruppe Neurosensorik/Animal Navigation, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany.


The upper beak of birds, which contains putative magnetosensory ferro-magnetic structures, is innervated by the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve (V1). However, because of the absence of replicable neurobiological evidence, a general acceptance of the involvement of the trigeminal nerve in magnetoreception is lacking in birds. Using an antibody to ZENK protein to indicate neuronal activation, we here document reliable magnetic activation of neurons in and near the principal (PrV) and spinal tract (SpV) nuclei of the trigeminal brainstem complex, which represent the two brain regions known to receive primary input from the trigeminal nerve. Significantly more neurons were activated in PrV and in medial SpV when European robins (Erithacus rubecula) experienced a magnetic field changing every 30 seconds for a period of 3 h (CMF) than when robins experienced a compensated, zero magnetic field condition (ZMF). No such differences in numbers of activated neurons were found in comparison structures. Under CMF conditions, sectioning of V1 significantly reduced the number of activated neurons in and near PrV and medial SpV, but not in lateral SpV or in the optic tectum. Tract tracing of V1 showed spatial proximity and regional overlap of V1 nerve endings and ZENK-positive (activated) neurons in SpV, and partly in PrV, under CMF conditions. Together, these results suggest that magnetic field changes activate neurons in and near the trigeminal brainstem complex and that V1 is necessary for this activation. We therefore suggest that V1 transmits magnetic information to the brain in this migratory passerine bird.

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