Corticobulbar innervation of Cranial Nerve Nuclei

Corticobulbar fibers serve as the source of upper motoneuron innervation of lower motoneurons in cranial nerve nuclei (Figure IV-5-4), Corticobulbar fibers arise in the motor cortex and influence lower motoneurons in all brain stem nuclei that innervate skeletal muscles. This includes:

' Muscles of facial expression (CN VII)

■ Sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscles (CN XI)

The corticobulbar innervation of cranial nerve lower motoneurons is predominantly bilateral, in that each lower motoneuron in a cranial nerve nucleus receives input from corticobulbar axons arising from both the right and the left cerebral cortex.

Clinical Correlate

Facial Paralysis

The upper motoneuron innervation of lower motoneurons in the facial motor nucleus is different and clinically significant. Like most cranial nerve lower motoneurons, the corticobulbar innervation of facial motoneurons to muscles of the upper face (which wrinkle the forehead and shut the eyes) is bilateral. The corticobulbar innervation of facial motoneurons to muscles of the mouth, however, is contralateral only. Clinically, this means that one can differentiate between a lesion of the seventh nerve and a lesion of the corticobulbar fibers to the facial motor nucleus. A facial nerve lesion (as in Bell Palsy) will result in a complete ipsilateral paralysis of muscles of facial expression, including an inability to wrinkle the forehead or shut the eyes and a drooping of the corner of the mouth. A corticobulbar lesion will result in only a drooping of the corner of the mouth on the contralateral side of the face and no other facial motor deficits. Generally, no other cranial deficits will be seen with corticobulbar lesions because virtually every other cranial nerve nucleus is bilaterally innervated. In some individuals, the hypoglossal nucleus may receive mainly contralateral corticobulbar innervation. If these corticobulbar fibers are tesioned, the tongue muscles undergo transient weakness without atrophy or fasciculations and may deviate away from the injured corticobulbar fibers. If, for example, the lesion is in corticobulbar fibers on the left, there is transient weakness of the right tongue muscles, causing a deviation of the tongue toward the right side upon protrusion.

Figure IV-5-4. Corticobulbar Innervation of the Facial Motor Nucleus

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