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Henry Gray (1825–1861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918.

1F. Pathways from the Brain to the Spinal Cord

The descending fasciculi which convey impulses from the higher centers to the spinal cord and located in the lateral and ventral funiculi.   1   The Motor Tract (Fig. 764), conveying voluntary impulses, arises from the pyramid cells situated in the motor area of the cortex, the anterior central and the posterior portions of the frontal gyri and the paracentral lobule. The fibers are at first somewhat widely diffused, but as they descend through the corona radiata they gradually approach each other, and pass between the lentiform nucleus and thalamus, in the genu and anterior two-thirds of the occipital part of the internal capsule; those in the genu are named the geniculate fibers, while the remainder constitute the cerebrospinal fibers; proceeding downward they enter the middle three-fifths of the base of the cerebral peduncle. The geniculate fibers cross the middle line, and end by arborizing around the cells of the motor nuclei of the cranial nerves. The cerebrospinal fibers are continued downward into the pyramids of the medulla oblongata, and the transit of the fibers from the medulla oblongata is effected by two paths. The fibers nearest to the anterior median fissure cross the middle line, forming the decussation of the pyramids, and descend in the opposite side of the medulla spinalis, as the lateral cerebrospinal fasciculus (crossed pyramidal tract). Throughout the length of the medulla spinalis fibers from this column pass into the gray substance, to terminate either directly or indirectly around the motor cells of the anterior column. The more laterally placed portion of the tract does not decussate in the medulla oblongata, but descends as the anterior cerebrospinal fasciculus (direct pyramidal tract); these fibers, however, end in the anterior gray column of the opposite side of the medulla spinalis by passing across in the anterior white commissure. There is considerable variation in the extent to which decussation takes place in the medulla oblongata; about two-thirds or three-fourths of the fibers usually decussate in the medulla oblongata and the remainder in the medulla spinalis.   2   The axons of the motor cells in the anterior column pass out as the fibers of the anterior roots of the spinal nerves, along which the impulses are conducted to the muscles of the trunk and limbs.   3   From this it will be seen that all the fibers of the motor tract pass to the nuclei of the motor nerves on the opposite side of the brain or medulla spinalis, a fact which explains why a lesion involving the motor area of one side causes paralysis of the muscles of the opposite side of the body. Further, it will be seen that there is a break in the continuity of the motor chain; in the case of the cranial nerves this break occurs in the nuclei of these nerves; and in the case of the spinal nerves, in the anterior gray column of the medulla spinalis. For clinical purposes it is convenient to emphasize this break and divide the motor tract into two portions: (1) a series of upper motor neurons which comprises the motor cells in the cortex and their descending fibers down to the nuclei of the motor nerves; (2) a series of lower motor neurons which includes the cells of the nuclei of the motor cerebral nerves or the cells of the anterior columns of the medulla spinalis and their axiscylinder processes to the periphery.   4   The rubrospinal fasciculus arises from the large cells of the red nucleus. The fibers cross the raphé of the mid-brain in the decussation of Forel and descend in the formatio reticularis of the pons and medulla dorsal to the medial lemniscus and as they pass into the spinal cord come to lie in a position ventral to the crossed pyramidal tracts in the lateral funiculus. The rubrospinal fibers end either directly or indirectly by terminals and collaterals about the motor cells in the anterior column on the side opposite from their origin in the red nucleus. A few are said to pass down on the same side. Since the red nucleus is intimately related to the cerebellum by terminals and collaterals of the superior peduncle which arises in the dentate nucleus of the cerebellum, the rubrospinal fasciculus is supposed to be concerned with cerebellar reflexes, complex motor coördinations necessary in locomotion and equilibrium. The afferent paths concerned in these reflexes have already been partly considered, namely, the dorsal and ventral spinocerebellar fasciculi, and probably some of the fibers of the posterior funiculi which reach the cerebellum by the inferior peduncle.   5

FIG. 764– The motor tract. (Modified from Poirier.) (See enlarged image)
    The tectospinal fasciculus arises from the superior colliculus of the roof (tectum) of the mid-brain. The axons come from large cells in the stratum opticum and stratum lemnisci and sweep ventrally around the central gray matter of the aqueduct, cross the raphé in the fountain decussation of Meynert and turn downward in the tegmentum in the ventral longitudinal bundle. Some of the fibers do not cross in the raphé but pass down on the same side; it is uncertain whether they come from the superior colliculus of the same side or arch over the aqueduct from the colliculus of the opposite side. The tectospinal fasciculus which comprises the major part of the ventral longitudinal bundle passes down through the tegmentum and reticular formation of the pons and medulla oblongata ventral to the medial longitudinal bundle. In the medulla the two bundles are more or less intermingled and the tectospinal portion is continued into the antero-lateral funiculus of the spinal cord ventral to the rubrospinal fasciculus with which some of its fibers are intermingled. Some of the fibers of the tectospinal fasciculus pass through the red nucleus giving off collaterals to it, others are given off to the motor nuclei of the cranial nerves and in the spinal cord they terminate either directly or indirectly by terminals and collaterals among the nuclei of the anterior column. Since the superior colliculus is an important optic reflex center, this tract is probably concerned in optic reflexes; and possibly also with auditory reflexes since some of the fibers of the central auditory path, the lateral lemniscus, terminate in the superior colliculus.   6   The vestibulospinal fasciculus (part of the anterior marginal fasciculus or Loewenthal’s tract) situated chiefly in the marginal part of the anterior funiculus is mainly derived from the cells of the terminal nuclei of the vestibular nerve, probably Deiters’s and Bechterew’s, and some of its fibers are supposed to come from the nucleus fastigius (roof nucleus of the cerebellum). The latter nucleus is intimately connected with Dieters’s and Bechterew’s nuclei. The vestibulospinal fasciculus is concerned with equilibratory reflexes. Its terminals and collaterals end about the motor cells in the anterior column. It extends to the sacral region of the cord. Its fibers are intermingled with the ascending spinothalamic fasciculus, with the anterior proper fasciculus and laterally with the tectospinal fasciculus. Its fibers are supposed to be both crossed and uncrossed. In the brain-stem it is associated with the dorsal longitudinal bundle.   7   
        The pontospinal fasciculus (Bechterew) arises from the cells in the reticular formation of the pons from the same and the opposite side and is associated in the brain-stem with the ventral longitudinal bundle. In the cord it is intermingled with the fibers of the vestibulospinal fasciculus in the anterior funiculus. Not much is known about this tract.   8   There are probably other descending fasciculi such as the thalamospinal but not much is known about them.   9