Comparing thalamocortical and corticothalamic microstructure and spatial reciprocity in the macaque ventral posterolateral nucleus (VPLc) and medial pulvinar

J Comp Neurol. 1999 Jul 26;410(2):211-34.


The detailed morphology of thalamocortical (TC) and corticothalamic (CT) pathways connecting the ventral posterolateral nucleus (VPLc) with the primary somatosensory cortex (areas 3b and 1) and the thalamic pulvinar with the posterior parietal cortex (primarily area 7a), was compared. Each pathway processes information relevant to directed reaching tasks, but whereas VPLc receives its major input from the spinal cord and external environment, the primary afferent to the pulvinar is cortical. Using combined tracer and thick fixed slice procedures, the soma/dendritic morphology of TC neuron populations (with known destination) was shown to be quantitatively similar within VPLc and the pulvinar. This implies that differences in information processing in VPLc (a primary relay) and the pulvinar (an integrative thalamic nucleus) are not defined by a distinctive TC morphology, but rather by the connections of these neuron populations. Two morphologically distinct types of CT axon were observed within the medial pulvinar and VPLc. The more common "Type E" were fine, had boutons en passant and diffuse terminal bifurcations ending in masses of tiny boutons. "Type R" axons were thicker, smooth, and terminated in localised clusters of large terminal boutons. Each type had a unique pattern of termination reflecting a distinct action on target neuron populations. The spatial relationship between TC distribution territories and CT terminal fields was examined within the medial pulvinar and VPLc by using anterograde and retrograde tracers injected together within cortical areas 7a, and 3b/1, respectively. Spatial overlap was incomplete within both thalamic nuclei. Our findings show a more complex relationship between TC and CT neuron populations than previously demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dextrans / pharmacokinetics
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Parietal Lobe / cytology
  • Parietal Lobe / metabolism
  • Photomicrography / methods
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Thalamus / metabolism
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / cytology*
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Visual Pathways / metabolism*


  • Dextrans