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Orofacial proprioceptive thalamus of the rat


The ascending pathway mediating proprioception from the orofacial region is still not fully known. The present study elucidated the relay of jaw-closing muscle spindle (JCMS) inputs from brainstem to thalamus in rats. We injected an anterograde tracer into the electrophysiologically identified supratrigeminal nucleus (Su5), known to receive JCMS input. Many thalamic axon terminals were labeled and were found mainly contralaterally in a small, unpredicted area of the caudo-ventromedial edge (VPMcvm) of ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus (VPM). Electrical stimulation of the masseter nerve and passive jaw movements induced large responses in the VPMcvm. The VPMcvm is far from the rostrodorsal part of ventral posterolateral thalamic nucleus (VPL) where proprioceptive inputs from the body are represented. After injection of a retrograde tracer into the electrophysiologically identified VPMcvm, many neurons were labeled almost exclusively in the contralateral Su5, whereas no labeled neurons were found in the principal sensory trigeminal nucleus (Pr5) and spinal trigeminal nucleus (Sp5). In contrast, after injection of a retrograde tracer into the core of VPM, many neurons were labeled contralaterally in the Pr5 and Sp5, but none in the Su5. We conclude that JCMS input excites trigeminothalamic projection neurons in the Su5 which project primarily to the VPMcvm in marked contrast to other proprioceptors and sensory receptors in the orofacial region which project to the core VPM. These findings suggest that lesions or deep brain stimulation in the human equivalent of VPMcvm may be useful for treatment of movement disorders (e.g., orofacial tremor) without affecting other sensations.

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Third ventricle


Facial nerve


Dorsal motor nucleus of vagus


Hypoglossal nucleus


Avidin-biotin-peroxidase complex


Anterior pretectal nucleus


Area ventral to the Mo5 and medial to the Pr5


Biotinylated dextranamine


Centrolateral thalamic nucleus


Central medial thalamic nucleus




Cuneate nucleus




Deep brain stimulation




Fasciculus retroflexus


Gracile nucleus


Horseradish peroxidase


Intertrigeminal region


Intermediodorsal thalamic nucleus




Jaw-closing muscle spindle


Kölliker–Fuse nucleus


Lateral habenular nucleus


Lateral parabrachial nucleus


Trigeminal motor nerve


Mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus


Mesencephalic trigeminal tract


Mediodorsal thalamic nucleus


Medial habenular nucleus


Medial lemniscus


Trigeminal motor nucleus


Medial parabrachial nucleus


Parabrachial nucleus


Paracentral thalamic nucleus


Parafascicular thalamic nucleus


Phosphate buffer


Phosphate buffered saline


Posterior thalamic nucleus


Principal sensory trigeminal nucleus


Paraventricular thalamic nucleus


Superior cerebellar peduncle


Superior olive


Nucleus of the solitary tract


Spinal trigeminal nucleus


Spinal trigeminal tract


Sp5, caudal part


Sp5, interpolar part


Sp5, oral part


Supratrigeminal nucleus


Tetramethyl benzidine


Ventral intermediate thalamic nucleus


Ventromedial thalamic nucleus


Ventral posterolateral thalamic nucleus


Oral part of the VPL


Ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus


Caudo-ventromedial edge of the VPM


Parvicellular part of ventral posterior thalamic nucleus


Wheat-germ agglutinin conjugated horseradish peroxidase


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We are indebted to Dr. Akiko Tomita, Dr. Yume Uemura, Ms. Etsuko Ikenoue and Ms. Yumi Tsutsumi for their technical help. This work was supported by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (Grant 26293391 and 16K15775 to A.Y. and Grant 15H06387 to O.H.)

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Correspondence to Atsushi Yoshida.

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Yoshida, A., Fujio, T., Sato, F. et al. Orofacial proprioceptive thalamus of the rat. Brain Struct Funct 222, 2655–2669 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-016-1363-1

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  • Orofacial deep sensation
  • VPM
  • Trigeminal
  • Supratrigeminal nucleus
  • Thalamotomy
  • DBS