Neck muscle afferents influence oromotor and cardiorespiratory brainstem neural circuits

I J Edwards, V K Lall, J F Paton, Y Yanagawa, G Szabo, S A Deuchars, J Deuchars

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Sensory information arising from the upper neck is important in the reflex control of posture and eye position. It has also been linked to the autonomic control of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) and cervical dystonia, which involve disturbance to the neck region, can often present with abnormalities to the oromotor, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. We investigated the potential neural pathways underlying such symptoms. Simulating neck afferent activity by electrical stimulation of the second cervical nerve in a working heart brainstem preparation (WHBP) altered the pattern of central respiratory drive and increased perfusion pressure. Tracing central targets of these sensory afferents revealed projections to the intermedius nucleus of the medulla (InM). These anterogradely labelled afferents co-localised with parvalbumin and vesicular glutamate transporter 1 indicating that they are proprioceptive. Anterograde tracing from the InM identified projections to brain regions involved in respiratory, cardiovascular, postural and oro-facial behaviours-the neighbouring hypoglossal nucleus, facial and motor trigeminal nuclei, parabrachial nuclei, rostral and caudal ventrolateral medulla and nucleus ambiguus. In brain slices, electrical stimulation of afferent fibre tracts lateral to the cuneate nucleus monosynaptically excited InM neurones. Direct stimulation of the InM in the WHBP mimicked the response of second cervical nerve stimulation. These results provide evidence of pathways linking upper cervical sensory afferents with CNS areas involved in autonomic and oromotor control, via the InM. Disruption of these neuronal pathways could, therefore, explain the dysphagic and cardiorespiratory abnormalities which may accompany cervical dystonia and WAD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Mar 2014


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