Neuronal and synaptic composition of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus in the rat: A light and electron microscopic golgi study

Masaru Kuroda, Laura López‐Mascaraque, Joseph L. Price

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28 Scopus citations


The distribution and dendritic domain of neurons in each segment of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (MD) have been studied in the rat with the Golgi technique. In addition, a combined Golgi method‐electron microscopic (Golgi‐EM) study was undertaken to determine the distribution of morphologically distinct synapse types along the dendrites of individual identified neurons in MD. All the subdivisions or “segments” of MD (medial, central, lateral) contained both stellate and fusiform cells. The dendritic domain of both types of cells was predominantly restricted to the same segment of MD that contained the cell body of the neuron. Typical stellate neurons were found near the center of each segment, with radiating dendrites that extended to but not across the boundaries of the segment. Fusiform cells were usually located close to the segmental or nuclear boundaries and tended to have dendrites oriented parallel to those borders; again, the dendrites tended not to extend across borders between segments or at the outer edge of MD. In the medial segment of MD many fusiform cells had especially bipolar dendritic configurations, generally with a dorsoventral orientation. Because no small neurons were identified that might correspond to thalamic interneurons, all the impregnated cells in MD are presumed to be thalamocortical projection neurons. These results indicate that cells and their major dendrites are confined to a single segment of MD, with little dendritic overlap across segmental or nuclear borders. The segments of MD may therefore be considered to be relatively independent subnuclei. The distribution of the four types of synapses previously identified in MD (Kuroda and Price, J. Comp. Neurol., 303:513–533, 1991) was determined along several identified dendrites studied with the Golgi‐EM method. Primary dendrites were contacted mostly by large axon terminals, including both large, round vesicle (LR) terminals and large, pleomorphic vesicle (LP) terminals, as well as a few small to medium sized terminals with pleomorphic vesicles (SMP). No small terminals with round vesicles (SR terminals) were observed to make synapses with primary dendrites. Secondary and tertiary dendrites received synapses from all types of axon terminals. Higher order dendrites were contacted predominantly by SR boutons, but they also carried some LR and SMP terminals. In addition, SMP boutons were often found to form symmetric contacts with cell somata. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-81
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1992


  • dendritic configuration
  • excitatotry synapses
  • inhibitory synapses
  • synaptic organization


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