Feed-forward and feedback projections of midbrain reticular formation neurons in the cat
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AbstractGaze changes involving the eyes and head are orchestrated by brainstem gaze centers found within the superior colliculus (SC), paramedian pontine reticular formation (PPRF), and medullary reticular formation (MdRF). The mesencephalic reticular formation (MRF) also plays a role in gaze. It receives a major input from the ipsilateral SC and contains cells that fire in relation to gaze changes. Moreover, it provides a feedback projection to the SC and feed-forward projections to the PPRF and MdRF. We sought to determine whether these MRF feedback and feed-forward projections originate from the same or different neuronal populations by utilizing paired fluorescent retrograde tracers in cats. Specifically, we tested: 1. whether MRF neurons that control eye movements form a single population by injecting the SC and PPRF with different tracers, and 2. whether MRF neurons that control head movements form a single population by injecting the SC and MdRF with different tracers. In neither case were double labeled neurons observed, indicating that feedback and feed-forward projections originate from separate MRF populations. In both cases, the labeled reticulotectal and reticuloreticular neurons were distributed bilaterally in the MRF. However, neurons projecting to the MdRF were generally constrained to the medial half of the MRF, while those projecting to the PPRF, like MRF reticulotectal neurons, were spread throughout the mediolateral axis. Thus, the medial MRF may be specialized for control of head movements, with control of eye movements being more widespread in this structure.