Functional imaging of the human brainstem during somatosensory input and autonomic output

Luke A. Henderson, Vaughan G. Macefield

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Over the past half a century, many investigations in experimental animal have explored the functional roles of specific regions in the brainstem. Despite the accumulation of a considerable body of knowledge in, primarily, anesthetized preparations, relatively few studies have explored brainstem function in awake humans. It is important that human brainstem function is explored given that many neurological conditions, from obstructive sleep apnea, chronic pain, and hypertension, likely involve significant changes in the processing of information within the brainstem. Recent advances in the collection and processing of magnetic resonance images have resulted in the possibility of exploring brainstem activity changes in awake healthy individuals and in those with various clinical conditions. We and others have begun to explore changes in brainstem activity in humans during a number of challenges, including cutaneous and muscle pain, as well as during maneuvers that evoke increases in sympathetic nerve activity. More recently we have successfully recorded sympathetic nerve activity concurrently with functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brainstem, which will allow us, for the first time to explore brainstem sites directly responsible for conditions such as hypertension. Since many pathophysiological conditions no doubt involve changes in brainstem function and structure, defining these changes will likely result in a greater ability to develop more effective treatment regimens.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA569
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dorsal column nuclei
  • Pain
  • Rostral ventrolateral medulla
  • Sympathetic nerve activity
  • Trigeminal nuclei

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