The corticobulbar tract is composed of the upper motor neurons of the cranial nerves. The muscles of the face, head and neck are controlled by the corticobulbar system, which terminates on motor neurons within brainstem motor nuclei. This is in contrast to the corticospinal tract in which the cerebral cortex connects to spinal motor neurons, and thereby controls movement of the torso, upper and lower limbs.
The corticobulbar tract innervates cranial motor nuclei bilaterally with the exception of the lower facial nuclei which are innervated only unilaterally (below the eyes) and cranial nerve XII which is innervated unilaterally as well. Both the lower part of cranial nerve VII and XII are innervated by the contralateral cortex. Among those nuclei that are bilaterally innervated a slightly stronger connection contralaterally than ipsilaterally is observed. The corticobulbar tract directly innervates the nuclei for cranial nerves V, VII, XI, and XII. It does not innervate nuclei for nerves III, IV, and VI because these are mediated by cortical projections and yoked together by the MLF, medial longitudinal fasciculus. The corticobulbar tract also contributes to the motor regions of nerves IX and X in the nucleus ambiguus.