The Mouse Brainstem (Truncus encephali)

  • Hannsjörg SchröderEmail author
  • Natasha Moser
  • Stefan Huggenberger


The mammalian brainstem is composed in caudocranial order of the medulla oblongata, the pons, and the midbrain (mesencephalon). The main difference to the spinal cord (see ► Chap.  5, nervous supply of trunk and limbs) is the endowment of the brainstem with nuclei, fiber tracts, and nerves for the innervation of the head-specific organs, like the eyes, the ears, the organ of equilibrium, the nose, the foregut, and the specific muscles of the head and face region. The nerves providing eye movement (oculomotor, trochlear, and abducens), the face (trigeminal and facial), the inner ear (vestibulocochlear), and the foregut (trigeminal, facial, glossopharyngeal, vagal and hypoglossal) originate (motor, efferent innervation) or end (sensory, afferent innervation) in specific nuclei inside the brainstem. Following a historical classification, there are nine “real” cranial nerves, comparable to the spinal nerves of the spinal cord, and two cranial nerves which in effect are bulges of the telencephalon (olfactory nerve, olfaction; see ► Chap.  14) and the diencephalon (optic nerve, vision; see ► Chap.  8). The accessory nerve, innervating some of the neck muscles, is included additionally into the cranial nerves although its neurons of origin are located in the cervical spinal cord.

In addition to the “real cranial nerve” nuclei, there are precerebellar nuclei targeting the cerebellum (► Chap.  7), premotor nuclei like the red nucleus, nuclei which provide the aminergic innervation of the whole brain, relay nuclei for the ascending sensory tracts (somatosensory, auditory), and those of the reticular formation. Finally, all the ascending and descending fibers tracts we have learned about in ► Chap.  5 are traversing the brainstem on their way to the cerebellum, the vestibular nuclei, the somatosensory nuclei of the thalamus (► Chap.  8), and those which descend to their motor targets in the brainstem and the spinal cord.


Brainstem Medulla oblongata Pons Mesencephalon Midbrain Cranial nerves branchiogenic innervation Substantia nigra 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannsjörg Schröder
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natasha Moser
    • 1
  • Stefan Huggenberger
    • 2
  1. 1.Department II of AnatomyUniversity Hospital CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Anatomy and Clinical MorphologyUniversity of Witten/HerdeckeWittenGermany

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