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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Aug 2019 - 9 Aug 2019

Human Studies


2019 Aug 05

Sci Rep



Visualizing the trigeminovagal complex in the human medulla by combining ex-vivo ultra-high resolution structural MRI and polarized light imaging microscopy.


Henssen DJHA, Derks B, van Doorn M, Verhoogt NC, Staats P, Vissers K, Van Cappellen van Walsum AM
Sci Rep. 2019 Aug 05; 9(1):11305.
PMID: 31383932.


A trigeminovagal complex, as described in some animals, could help to explain the effect of vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for headache disorders. However, the existence of a trigeminovagal complex in humans remains unclear. This study, therefore investigated the existence of the trigeminovagal complex in humans. One post-mortem human brainstem was scanned at 11.7T to obtain structural (T1-weighted) and diffusion magnetic resonance images ((d)MR images). Post-processing of dMRI data provided track density imaging (TDI) maps to investigate white matter at a smaller resolution than the imaging resolution. To evaluate the reconstructed tracts, the MR-scanned brainstem and three additional brainstems were sectioned for polarized light imaging (PLI) microscopy. T1-weighted images showed hyperintense vagus medullar striae, coursing towards the dorsomedial aspect of the medulla. dMRI-, TDI- and PLI-images showed these striae to intersect the trigeminal spinal tract (sp5) in the lateral medulla. In addition, PLI images showed that a minority of vagus fibers separated from the vagus trajectory and joined the trigeminal spinal nucleus (Sp5) and the sp5. The course of the vagus tract in the rostral medulla was demonstrated in this study. This study shows that the trigeminal- and vagus systems interconnect anatomically at the level of the rostral medulla where the vagus fibers intersect with the Sp5 and sp5. Physiological and clinical utility of this newly identified interconnection is a topic for further research.