Systematic morphometry of catecholamine nuclei in the brainstem

Domenico Bucci, Carla L. Busceti, Maria T. Calierno, Paola Di Pietro, Michele Madonna, Francesca Biagioni, Larisa Ryskalin, Fiona Limanaqi, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Francesco Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Catecholamine nuclei within the brainstem reticular formation (RF) play a pivotal role in a variety of brain functions. However, a systematic characterization of these nuclei in the very same experimental conditions is missing so far. Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunepositive cells of the brainstem correspond to dopamine (DA)-, norepinephrine (NE)-, and epinephrine (E)-containing cells. Here, we report a systematic count of TH-positive neurons in the RF of the mouse brainstem by using stereological morphometry. All these nuclei were analyzed for anatomical localization, rostro-caudal extension, volume, neuron number, neuron density, and mean neuronal area for each nucleus. The present data apart from inherent informative value wish to represent a reference for neuronal mapping in those studies investigating the functional anatomy of the brainstem RF. These include: the sleep-wake cycle, movement control, muscle tone modulation, mood control, novelty orienting stimuli, attention, archaic responses to internal and external stressful stimuli, anxiety, breathing, blood pressure, and innumerable activities modulated by the archaic iso-dendritic hard core of the brainstem RF. Most TH-immunepositive cells fill the lateral part of the RF, which indeed possesses a high catecholamine content. A few nuclei are medial, although conventional nosography considers all these nuclei as part of the lateral column of the RF. Despite the key role of these nuclei in psychiatric and neurological disorders, only a few of them aspired a great attention in biomedical investigation, while most of them remain largely obscure although intense research is currently in progress. A simultaneous description of all these nuclei is not simply key to comprehend the variety of brainstem catecholamine reticular neurons, but probably represents an intrinsically key base for understanding brain physiology and physiopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
JournalFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2 2017


  • Brainstem
  • Catecholamine
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Reticular formation
  • Stereology
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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