Developmental changes in human dural innervation.
Davidson JR., Mack J., Gutnikova A., Varatharaj A., Darby S., Squier W.
INTRODUCTION: There is limited published work on the abundant innervation of the human dura mater, its role and responses to injury in humans. The dura not only provides mechanical support for the brain but may also have other functions, including control of the outflow of venous blood from the brain via the dural sinuses. The trigeminal nerve supplies sensory fibres to the dura as well as the leptomeninges, intracranial blood vessels, face, nose and mouth. Its relatively large size in embryonic life suggests an importance in development; the earliest fetal reflexes, mediated by the trigeminal, are seen by 8 weeks. Trigeminal functions vital to the fetus include the coordination of sucking and swallowing and the protective oxygen-conserving reflexes. Like other parts of the nervous system, the trigeminal undergoes pruning and remodelling throughout development. METHODS: We have investigated changes in the innervation of the human dura with age in 27 individuals aged between 31 weeks of gestation and 60 years of postnatal life. Using immunocytochemistry with antibodies to neurofilament, we have found significant changes in the density of dural innervation with age RESULTS: The density of innervation increased between 31 and 40 weeks of gestation, peaking at term and decreasing in the subsequent 3 months, remaining low until the sixth decade. CONCLUSIONS: Our observations are consistent with animal studies but are, to our knowledge, the first to show age-related changes in the density of innervation in the human dura. They provide new insights into the functions of the human dura during development.