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Neurochemical organization of the vestibular brainstem in the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

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Chimpanzees are one of the closest living relatives of humans. However, the cognitive and motor abilities of chimpanzees and humans are quite different. The fact that humans are habitually bipedal and chimpanzees are not implies different uses of vestibular information in the control of posture and balance. Furthermore, bipedal locomotion permits the development of fine motor skills of the hand and tool use in humans, suggesting differences between species in the structures and circuitry for manual control. Much motor behavior is mediated via cerebro-cerebellar circuits that depend on brainstem relays. In this study, we investigated the organization of the vestibular brainstem in chimpanzees to gain insight into whether these structures differ in their anatomy from humans. We identified the four nuclei of vestibular nuclear complex in the chimpanzee and also looked at several other precerebellar structures. The size and arrangement of some of these nuclei differed between chimpanzees and humans, and also displayed considerable inter-individual variation. We identified regions within the cytoarchitectonically defined medial vestibular nucleus visualized by immunoreactivity to the calcium-binding proteins calretinin and calbindin as previously shown in other species including human. We have found that the nucleus paramedianus dorsalis, which is identified in the human but not in macaque monkeys, is present in the chimpanzee brainstem. However, the arcuate nucleus, which is present in humans, was not found in chimpanzees. The present study reveals major differences in the organization of the vestibular brainstem among Old World anthropoid primate species. Furthermore, in chimpanzees, as well as humans, there is individual variability in the organization of brainstem nuclei.

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Arcuate nucleus






Cresyl violet


Dorsal cochlear nucleus


Dentate nucleus


External (lateral) cuneate nucleus


Epifascicular nucleus


Inferior cerebellar peduncle


Inferior olive




Interstitial nucleus of the eighth nerve


Lateral vestibular nucleus


Medial longitudinal fasciculus


Medial vestibular nucleus


Nitric oxide synthase


Nonphosphorylated neurofilament protein


Nucleus paramedianus dorsalis


Paramedian reticular nucleus


Nucleus prepositus hypoglossi




Reticular formation


Nucleus of Roller


Suprageniculate nucleus


Spinal tract of the trigeminal


Inferior vestibular nucleus


Subtrigeminal nucleus


Superior vestibular nucleus


Abducens nucleus


Seventh (facial) cranial nerve


Eighth cranial nerve


Nucleus of the hypoglossal nerve


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Supported in part by the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University at Buffalo and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, Grant 22002078 to CCS and PRH. We appreciate the assistance with data analysis of Jason Ng.

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Correspondence to Joan S. Baizer.

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Baizer, J.S., Paolone, N.A., Sherwood, C.C. et al. Neurochemical organization of the vestibular brainstem in the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Brain Struct Funct 218, 1463–1485 (2013).

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  • Locomotion
  • Balance
  • Manual dexterity
  • Vestibular nuclear complex
  • Cerebellum
  • Cerebral cortex