Abstract The subdivisions of the brainstem trigeminal complex in non-primate mammals are characterized by aggregated or parcellated patterns of neural organization. The present studies used cytochrome oxidase histochemistry to test if parcellated organization patterns also occur in the brainstems of primates. The results demonstrate that a parcellated pattern of neural organization exists in the trigeminal nucleus principalis, but not in the spinal trigeminal nuclei, of macaque and squirrel monkeys. The results further suggest that parcellation in the nucleus principalis qualitatively resembles the aggregated organization in dorsal column nuclei. Taken together with previous findings from non-primates, these results indicate that central parcellation is an organizational feature of specific ascending somatosensory projections in many mammals including primates.