Raphe nucleus of the pons containing omnipause neurons of the oculomotor system in the monkey, and Its homologue in man

J. A. Büttner‐Ennever, B. Cohen, M. Pause, W. Fries

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Omnipause neurons take part in the generation of saccadic eye movements. They lie around the midline in the caudal pontine reticulur formation, in an area usually ascribed to the nucleus raphe pontis (rp). In this study of the monkey (Macaca fascicularis and M. mulatta), we describe four series of experiments aimed at establishing that omnipause neurons lie within a distinctive cytoarchitectonic entity, which we call the nucleus raphe interpositus (rip): (1) cytoarchitectural study, (2) recording‐lesion experiments to establish in which cell group omnipause neurons lie, (3) cytochrome oxidase distribution in the omnipause region and neighboring structures, and (4) neuroanatomical tracing experiments to demonstrate afferents to the omnipause region. In the detailed cytoarchitectural study of the midline structures in the caudal pons and rostral medulla, a distinctive group of neurons (rip) adjoining the ventrocaudal border of rp and dorsal to the nucleus raphe magnus (rm) is described. The striking features of rip are the uniformly arranged, narrow row of the cells either side of the midline, and the extensive horizontally oriented dendritic trees of its neurons. The abducens rootlets (NVI) pass through the reticular formation at the same rostrocaudal level as rip and form a reliable landmark for its location. Cytochrome‐oxidase‐stained sections demonstrated additional differences between rip and adjacent cell groups: in rip the neurons and their extensive dendrites stained strongly, but not the surrounding neuropile, whereas in rp both the neurons and the neuropile stained darkly, so that individual neurons were difficult to see. Unlike rp, rip coincides with the location of omnipause neurons, and lesions marking the sites of individual omnipause units lay within its boundaries. Tritiated leucine was injected into superior colliculus (sc), which is known to have monosynaptic connections with omnipause neurons. Labelled axons and patterns of silver grains taken to indicate the presence of terminal branching were found in and around rip, but no significant labelling was seen in rp or rm. It is concluded that the omnipause neurons lie within the rip in the monkey. These functional and morphological differences between rip and the adjacent raphe nuclei are used to justify its characterization as an independent cell group in the monkey. In order to relate these findings to man, cytochrome oxidase experiments were carried out to the human brainstem, and the pattern of staining at the level of the abducens rootlets was correlated with the cytoarchitecture. Similar results to those in the monkey were found, and a group of cells is outlined which we suggest is the homologue of rip in man.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-321
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Jan 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • man
  • monkey
  • nucleus raphe interpositus
  • oculomotor
  • omnipause neurons


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