Three-dimensional topography of corticopontine projections from rat barrel cortex: Correlations with corticostriatal organization

T. B. Leergaard, Kevin Alloway, J. J. Mutic, J. G. Bjaalie

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61 Scopus citations


Subcortical re-entrant projection systems connecting cerebral cortical areas with the basal ganglia and cerebellum are topographically specific and therefore considered to be parallel circuits or 'closed loops.' The precision of projections within these circuits, however, has not been characterized sufficiently to indicate whether cortical signals are integrated within or among presumed compartments. To address this issue, we studied the first link of the rat cortico-ponto-cerebellar pathway with anterograde axonal tracing from physiologically defined, individual whisker 'barrels' of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI). The labeled axons in the pontine nuclei formed several, sharply delineated clusters. Dual tracer injections into different SI whisker barrels gave rise to partly overlapping, paired clusters, indicating somatotopic specificity. Three-dimensional reconstructions revealed that the clusters were components of concentrically organized lamellar subspaces. Whisker barrels in the same row projected to different pontine lamellae (side by side), the somatotopic representation of which followed an inside-out sequence. By contrast, whisker barrels from separate rows projected to clusters located within the same lamellar subspace (end to end). In the neostriatum, this lamellar topography was the opposite, with barrels in the same row contacting different parts of the same lamellar subspace (end to end). The degree of overlap among pontine clusters varied as a function of the proximity of the cortical injections. Furthermore, corticopontine overlap was higher among projections from barrels in the same row than among projections from different whisker barrel rows. This anisotropy was the same in the corticostriatal projection. These findings have important implications for understanding convergence and local integration in somatosensory-related subcortical circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8474-8484
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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