Connections between the thalamus and the somatosensory areas of the anterior ectosylvian gyrus in the cat

H. Burton, E. M. Kopf

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The thalamocortical and corticothalamic connections of the second somatic sensory area (SII) and adjacent cortical areas in the cat were studied with anterograde and retrograde tracers. Injections consisted of horseradish peroxidase conjugated to wheat germ agglutinin (HRP‐WGA) or a mixture of equal parts of tritiated leucine and proline. The cortical regions to be injected were electrophysiologically studied with microelectrodes to determine the localization of the selected components of the body representation in SII. The distribution of recording points was correlated in each case with the extent of the injection mass in the cortex. Distributions of retrograde and anterograde labeling in the thalamus were reconstructed from serial coronal sections. The results from cases with injections of tracers exclusively confined to separate parts of the body map in SII indicated a fairly precise topographical organization of projections from the ventrobasal complex (VB) to SII. The labeled cells and fibers were located within a series of lamella‐like rods that curved throughout the dorsoventral and rostrocaudal axis of VB. The position and extent of these lamellae shifted from medial and ventral, in the medial subdivision of ventral posterior lateral nucleus (VPLm) for radial forelimb digit zones of SII, to dorsal, Posterior, and lateral, in the lateral subdivision of ventral posterior lateral nucleus (VPLl) for proximal leg and trunk regions in SII. For every injected area in SII the densest clustering of labeled cells and fibers was usually more posteriorly represented in VB. The distribution in these dense zones of labeling often extended through the central core of VB. SII projecting neurons were also consistently noted in the extreme rostral portion of the medial subdivision of the posterior nuclei (Pom) that lies dorsal to VB. Corticothalamic and thalamocortical connections for SII Were entirely reciprocal. Injections of tracers into cortical areas surrounding SII labeled other parts of the posterior complex but failed to label any part of VB except when the injection mass also diffused into SII. Injections into the somatic sensory cortex located lateral to SII, within the lips and depth of the upper bank of the anterior ectosylvian sulcus (AES), heavily labeled the central and posterior portions of Pom. Substantial labeling was noted in the lateral (Pol) and intermediate (Poi) divisions of Po only when the injections involved some part of the auditory area that occupies the most posterior part of the AEG and both banks of the immediately adjoining AES. The magnocellular nucleus of the medial geniculate (MGmc) was labeled only when some part of the auditory cortex was injected. The suprageniculate nucleus (SG) was labeled from the insula and lower bank of the AES. These results indicated that medial (rostral and caudal Pom) and lateral components (Poi, Pol, MGmc) of the Posterior complex have separate cortical projection zones to somatic sensory and auditory cortical regions, respectively. SIV and the lateral extent of area 5a located in the medial bank of the anterior suprasylvian sulcus sent projections to the deep layers of the supe‐ rior colliculus and the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray. No cortico‐tectal projections were seen from SII.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-205
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1984


  • second somatic sensory area
  • thalamocortical projections


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