The red nucleus (RN) is a large subcortical structure located in the ventral midbrain. Although it originated as a primitive relay between the cerebellum and the spinal cord, during its phylogenesis the RN shows a progressive segregation between a magnocellular part, involved in the rubrospinal system, and a parvocellular part, involved in the olivocerebellar system. Despite exhibiting distinct evolutionary trajectories, these two regions are strictly tied together and play a prominent role in motor and non-motor behavior in different animal species. However, little is known about their function in the human brain. This lack of knowledge may have been conditioned both by the notable differences between human and non-human RN and by inherent difficulties in studying this structure directly in the human brain, leading to a general decrease of interest in the last decades. In the present review, we identify the crucial issues in the current knowledge and summarize the results of several decades of research about the RN, ranging from animal models to human diseases. Connecting the dots between morphology, experimental physiology and neuroimaging, we try to draw a comprehensive overview on RN functional anatomy and bridge the gap between basic and translational research.
- Skilled movements
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