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Thalamic projections to areas 3a, 3b, and 4 in the sensorimotor cortex of the mature and infant macaque monkey.
J Comp Neurol. 1993 Sep 8;335(2):173-99. Darian-Smith C, Darian-Smith I.
Area 3a in the macaque monkey, located in the fundus of the central sulcus, separates motor and somatosensory cortical areas 4 and 3b. The known connections of areas 4 and 3b differ substantially, as does the information which they receive, process, and transfer to other parts of the central nervous system. In this analysis the thalamic projections to each of these three cortical fields were examined and compared by using retrogradely transported fluorescent dyes (Fast Blue, Diamidino Yellow, Rhodamine and Green latex microspheres) as neuron labels. Coincident labeling of projections to 2-3 cortical sites in each monkey allowed the direct comparison of the soma distributions within the thalamic space of the different neuron populations projecting to areas 3a, 3b, and 4, as well as to boundary zones between these cortical fields. The soma distribution of thalamic neurons projecting to a small circumscribed zone (diameter = 0.5-1.0 mm) strictly within cortical area 3a (in region of hand representation) filled out a "territory" traversing the dorsal half of the cytoarchitectonically defined thalamic nucleus, VPLc (abbreviations as in Olszewski  The Thalamus of the Macaca mulatta. Basel: Karger). This elongate, rather cylindrical, territory extended caudally into the anterior pulvinar nucleus, but not forward into VPLo. The rostrocaudal extent of the thalamic territory defining the soma distribution of neurons projecting to small zones of cortical area 3b was similar, but typically extended into the ventral part of VPLc, filling out a medially concavo-convex laminar space. Two such territories projecting to adjacent zones of areas 3a and 3b, respectively, overlapped and shared thalamic space, but not thalamic neurons. Contrasting with the 3a and 3b thalamic territories, the soma distribution of thalamic neurons projecting to a circumscribed zone in the nearby motor cortex (area 4) did not penetrate into VPLc, but instead filled out a mediolaterally flattened territory extending from rostral VLo, VLm, VPLo to caudal and dorsal VLc, LP, and Pul.o. These territories skirted around VPLc. All three cortical areas 4, 3a, and 3b) also received input from distinctive clusters of cells in the intralaminar Cn.Md. It is inferred that, in combination, the thalamic territories enveloping those neuron somas projecting to, say, the sensorimotor hand representation in areas 3a, 3b, and 4 (and also areas 1 and 2), which would be coactive during the execution of a manual task, constituted a lamellar space extending from VLo rostrally to Pul.o caudally.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
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