The distribution and dendritic organization of splenius motoneurons innervating extrafusal muscle fibers in different regions of the muscle were examined by electrophysiological and intracellular HRP staining techniques. Motoneurons innervating the regions of the splenius muscle supplied by the C2, C3, and C4 peripheral nerves were arranged in three nonoverlapping sub‐nuclei. Reconstructions of the dendritic trees of splenius motoneurons in these three subnuclei showed that there were no major differences in their dendritic distributions. Instead, the dendritic distribution followed a single pattern which was composed of five major dendritic projections. These included a dorsolateral projection to the lateral part of lamina VIII, a lateral projection into the spinal accessory nucleus and beyond the gray‐white border, ventral and ventrolateral dendrites in the lateral half of the ventromedial nucleus and the surrounding white matter, medial dendrites which projected both dorsally and ventrally, and finally a conspicuous collection of dendrites which projected rostrally and caudally from the cell body. These results indicate that the dendritic distributions of splenius motoneurons are not related to the segmental position of the motoneuron or the zone of the muscle innervated by the motoneuron. However, a comparison of the dendritic distribution of splenius motoneurons to the dendritic distribution of biventer cervicis‐complexus motoneurons indicated that there are major differences in the form of their dendritic trees even though dendrites from both sets of motoneurons share the same territory. As a consequence, although these motoneurons may receive the same connections, the effect of these connections on the excitability of the motoneurons may differ.
- motoneuron dendrites
- neck muscles