Evidence for Excitatory Amino Acid Neurotransmitters in Forward and Feedback Corticocortical Pathways within Rat Visual Cortex

Randall R. Johnson, Andreas Burkhalter

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32 Scopus citations


It is a commonly accepted notion that cells which make projections between the multiple cortical areas found in the mammalian visual system are excitatory, but there is little direct evidence that this is the case. Here we demonstrate using retrograde tracing with D‐[3H]aspartate that connections in the rat which project from lower to higher visual areas (i.e. forward) and those which project from higher to lower areas (i.e. feedback) may use excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters. Following injection into the primary visual cortex, clusters of retrogradely labelled cells were found in several extrastriate areas within the cytoarchitectonic subdivisions 18a (‘areas’ LM, AL, PX, FLX, RL, AX) and 18b (‘area’ MX), and in the retrosplenial cortex. In all of these areas D‐[3H]aspartate‐labelled cells were surrounded by diffuse label which may represent anterograde labelling of axon terminals. This suggests that both legs of reciprocal intracortical circuits have similar chemospecificity. To directly demonstrate excitatory amino acid localization in forward projections, D‐[3H]aspartate was injected into extrastriate area LM. As expected, the results revealed retrogradely labelled neurons within area 17. Outside area 17, LM injections labelled neurons in AL, PX, FLX, RL, AX and MX. Taken in the context of the hierarchy of areas in rat cerebral cortex (Coogan and Burkhalter, J. Neurosci., 13, 3749–3772, 1993), these results show that D‐[3H]aspartate labels: (1) forward connections from area 17 to LM, AL, PX, RL, AX and MX, (2) feedback connections from LM, AL, FLX, PX, RL, AX and MX to area 17, (3) feedback connections from AL, PX, RL, AX and MX to LM, and (4) lateral connections between FLX and LM. These findings strongly indicate that both forward and feedback connections as well as lateral connections at several different levels of the cortical hierarchy use excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-286
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994


  • corticocortical connections
  • excitatory amino acids
  • vision
  • visual cortex


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