The central projections of afferent fibers from the cornea, and the infraorbital, infratrochlear, frontal, lacrimal and auriculotemporal nerves were investigated by means of the transganglionic transport of horseradish peroxidase. Afferent projections to the dorsal horn of the medulla are organized along both the rostrocaudal axis and the ventrolateral to dorsomedial margin of the medullary dorsal horn. An inverted but discontinuous facial representation exists through the rostrocaudal axis of the dorsal horn of the medulla with perioral and nasal receptive fields innervated by the infraorbital and infratrochlear nerves represented rostral to the progressively more posterior receptive fields innervated by the frontal, lacrimal and auriculotemporal nerves, respectively. The organization of the primary afferents is not uniform over the laminae of the dorsal horn of the medulla; the projections from the different nerves show the least overlap in lamina II, while overlap is most extensive in laminae I and V. The sensory projection from the cornea to the medullary dorsal horn is most dense in laminae I and II.
All nerves, including those innervating the cornea, project to the interpolar, oral and principal trigeminal nuclei and are somatotopically organized. Projections to the reticular formation and the contralateral trigeminal sensory complex were not found in this study.
These results support the organization of the dorsal horn of the medulla proposed by Déjerine (1914) and show that this organization is most evident for the primary afferent projections to lamina II.