The corticobulbar tract originates in motor cortex of the frontal lobe, just superior to the lateral fissure and rostral to the central sulcus. The tract descends through the genu of the internal capsule and a few fibers in the posterior limb of the internal capsule, as it passes from the cortex down to the midbrain. In the midbrain, the internal capsule becomes the cerebral peduncles. The white matter is located in the ventral portion of the cerebral peduncles, called the crus cerebri. The middle third of the crus cerebri contains the corticobulbar and corticospinal fibers. The corticobulbar fibers exit at the appropriate level of the brainstem to synapse on the lower motor neurons of the cranial nerves.
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.