Functional brainstem representations of the human trigeminal cervical complex

Jan Mehnert, Hauke Basedau, Lisa-Marie Sturm, Trine Nielsen, Rigmor Højland Jensen, Arne May*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde
2 Citationer (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The human in-vivo functional somatotopy of the three branches of the trigeminal (V1, V2, V3) and greater occipital nerve in brainstem and also in thalamus and insula is still not well understood.

METHODS: After preregistration ( NCT03999060), we mapped the functional representations of this trigemino-cervical complex non-invasively in 87 humans using high-resolution protocols for functional magnetic resonance imaging during painful electrical stimulation in two separate experiments. The imaging protocol and analysis was optimized for the lower brainstem and upper spinal cord, to identify activation of the spinal trigeminal nuclei. The stimulation protocol involved four electrodes which were positioned on the left side according to the three branches of the trigeminal nerve and the greater occipital nerve. The stimulation site was randomized and each site was repeated 10 times per session. The participants partook in three sessions resulting in 30 trials per stimulation site.

RESULTS: We show a large overlap of peripheral dermatomes on brainstem representations and a somatotopic arrangement of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve along the perioral-periauricular axis and for the greater occipital nerve in brainstem below pons, as well as in thalamus, insula and cerebellum. The co-localization of greater occipital nerve with V1 along the lower part of brainstem is of particular interest since some headache patients profit from an anesthetic block of the greater occipital nerve.

CONCLUSION: Our data provide anatomical evidence for a functional inter-inhibitory network between the trigeminal branches and greater occipital nerve in healthy humans as postulated in animal work. We further show that functional trigeminal representations intermingle perioral and periauricular facial dermatomes with individual branches of the trigeminal nerve in an onion shaped manner and overlap in a typical within-body-part somatotopic arrangement.Trial registration: NCT03999060.

TidsskriftCephalalgia : an international journal of headache
Udgave nummer5
StatusUdgivet - maj 2023


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