Projections to the amygdala from the auditory thalamus have been implicated in the associative conditioning of fear responses to acoustic stimuli. Thalamo-amygdala auditory projections enter the amygdala via the lateral nucleus (LA). It is well documented that these projections originate in the medial division (MGm) of the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN), the posterior intralaminar nucleus (PIN), and the suprageniculate nucleus (Sg). It is not known, however, whether these thalamic projections terminate in a topographic fashion within the LA. We therefore used several retrograde tract tracing techniques to determine whether the terminations of thalamo-amygdala fibers have a topographic organization within the LA. These tracers were injected into various locations within the LA, and the distribution of the retrogradely labeled cells throughout the thalamus was analyzed. In general, rostral to caudal distinctions in the thalamus are maintained in the LA, such that projections from throughout the MGN terminate in the anterior part of the LA, whereas the caudal part of the MGN projects to the caudal part of the LA. Furthermore, the density of cells that give rise to thalamo-amygdala projections varies within each thalamic nucleus along the rostro-caudal axis. The patterns of thalamo-amygdala connectivity observed support previous parcellation schemes that segregate the LA into dorsal, medial, and lateral areas, and suggest that the LA should be further divided into anterior and posterior parts. In addition to the well-known projections to the LA originating from PIN, MGN, and Sg, we also found substantial projections from the dorsal portion of the MGN (MGd) and the lateral posterior thalamic nucleus (LP). These findings suggest that some of the functional segregation in the thalamus may be preserved in the LA, and that the role of the MGd and LP in thalamo-amygdala transmission should be reconsidered.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.