Basal forebrain cholinergic and noncholinergic projections to the thalamus and brainstem in cats and monkeys. J Comp Neurol. 1988 Nov 8;277(2):281-301.

Parent A, Pare D, Smith Y, Steriade M

The projections of basal forebrain neurons to the thalamus and the brainstem were investigated in cats and primates by using retrograde transport techniques and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry. In a first series of experiments, the lectin wheat germ-agglutinin conjugated with horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) was injected into all major sensory, motor, intralaminar, and reticular (RE) thalamic nuclei of cats and into the mediodorsal (MD) and pulvinar-lateroposterior thalamic nuclei of macaque monkeys. In cats numerous neurons of the vertical and horizontal limbs of the diagonal band nucleus and the substantia innominata (SI), including its rostromedial portion termed the ventral pallidum (VP), were retrogradely labeled after WGA-HRP injections in the rostral pole of the RE complex, the MD, and anteroventral/anteromedial (AV/AM) thalamic nuclei. Fewer retrogradely labeled cells were observed in the same areas after injections in the ventromedial (VM) thalamic nucleus, and none or very few after other thalamic injections. After RE, MD, and AV/AM injections, 7-20% of all retrogradely labeled cells in the basal forebrain were also ChAT positive, while none of the retrogradely labeled neurons following VM injections displayed ChAT immunoreactivity. The basal forebrain projection to the MD nucleus was shown to arise principally from VP in both cats and macaque monkeys. In a second series of experiments performed in cats, injections of WGA-HRP in the brainstem peribrachial (PB) area comprising the pedunculopontine nucleus led to retrograde labeling of a moderate number of neurons in the lateral part of the VP, SI, and preoptic area (POA), only a few of which displayed ChAT immunoreactivity. In addition, a large number of retrogradely labeled cells were observed in the bed nuclei of the anterior commissure and stria terminalis after PB injections. In a third series of experiments, the use of the retrograde double-labeling method with fluorescent tracers in squirrel monkeys allowed us to identify a significant number of basal forebrain neurons sending axon collaterals to both the RE thalamic nucleus and PB brainstem area, while no double-labeled neurons were disclosed after injections confined to the ventral anterior/ventral lateral (VA/VL) thalamic nuclei and PB area or following injections in the cerebral cortex and PB area. Our findings reveal the existence of cholinergic and noncholinergic basal forebrain projections to the thalamus and the brainstem in both cats and macaque monkeys. We suggest that these projections may play a crucial role in the control of thalamic functions in mammals.

Neuroanatomical Connectivity References