Nuclei of the solitary tract: efferent projections to the lower brain stem and spinal cord of the cat

Author(s): Loewy AD, Burton H


The efferent projections from the solitary complex to the lower brain stem and spinal cord were studied in the cat with the autoradiographic anterograde axonal transport and retrograde horseradish peroxidase (HRP) techniques. A revised cytoarchitectonic description of the caudal two-thirds of the complex is presented in which the complex was subdivided into six nuclei: lateral, ventrolateral, intermediate, medial, parvocellular, and commissural solitary tract nuclei. Following injections of 3H amino acids into electrophysiologically defined regions of the complex in which cardiac or respiratory units were recorded, labeled fibers could be traced to a number of sites in the caudal brain stem including the medial and lateral parabrachial nuclei, Kölliker-Fuse nucleus and the area ventral to this nucleus, lateral periaqueductal gray matter, ambiguus complex, which consists of the retrofacial, ambiguus and retroambiguus nuclei, ventrolateral reticular nucleus (in an area equivalent to the A1 cell group of Dahlström and Fuxe, '64), medial accessory olive, paramedian reticular formation, and lateral cuneate nucleus. Descending solitario-spinal projections have been traced bilaterally, but predominantly to the contralateral side, to the region of the phrenic motor neurons in the C4-C6 ventral horn, to the thoracic ventral horn, and intermediolateral cell column. Confirmatory evidence of some of these projections was obtained from a series of HRP experiments. Mainly small neurons of the parvocellular, medial and commissural solitary tract nuclei project to the region of the parabrachial and Kölliker-Fuse nuclei. The lateral solitary nucleus projects almost exclusively to the ipsilateral medial accessory olive. It was not possible to interpret conclusively the labeling seen in the medium and large neurons of the ventrolateral solitary nucleus after HRP injections made in the region of the ambiguus-retroambiguus complex due to the problem of fibers of passage. Following injections of HRP into the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacral spinal cord, retrograde cell labeling was seen in the solitary complex. Cells in the intermediate and commissural nuclei were labeled after all four types of experiments. In the ventrolateral nucleus, medium sized neurons were predominantly labeled after the cervical spinal cord experiments, while large sized neurons were labeled mainly after the thoracic spinal cord injections. The potential physiological significance of these connections is discussed in terms of central control of cardiovascular and respiratory functions.

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