Descending projections to the inferior colliculus from the posterior thalamus and the auditory cortex in rat, cat, and monkey

Hear Res. 2002 Jun;168(1-2):181-95. doi: 10.1016/s0378-5955(02)00489-6.


Projections from the posterior thalamus and medial geniculate body were labeled retrogradely with wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase injected into the rat, cat, and squirrel monkey inferior colliculus. Neurons were found ipsilaterally in the (1) medial division of the medial geniculate body, (2) central gray, (3) posterior limitans nucleus, and the (4) reticular part of the substantia nigra. Bilateral projections involved the (5) peripeduncular/suprapeduncular nucleus, (6) subparafascicular and posterior intralaminar nuclei, (7) nucleus of the brachium of the inferior colliculus, (8) lateral tegmental/lateral mesencephalic areas, and (9) deep layers of the superior colliculus. The medial geniculate projection was concentrated in the caudal one-third of the thalamus; in contrast, the labeling in the subparafascicular nucleus, substantia nigra, and central gray continued much further rostrally. Robust anterograde labeling corresponded to known patterns of tectothalamic projection. Biotinylated dextran amine deposits in the rat inferior colliculus revealed that (1) many thalamotectal cells were elongated multipolar neurons with long, sparsely branched dendrites, resembling neurons in the posterior intralaminar system, and that other labeled cells were more typical of thalamic relay neurons; (2) some cells have reciprocal projections. Similar results were seen in the cat and squirrel monkey. The widespread origins of descending thalamic influences on the inferior colliculus may represent a phylogenetically ancient feedback system onto the acoustic tectum, one that predates the corticocollicular system and modulates nonauditory centers and brainstem autonomic nuclei. Besides their role in normal hearing such pathways may influence behaviors ranging from the startle reflex to the genesis of sound-induced seizures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Auditory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Geniculate Bodies / anatomy & histology
  • Inferior Colliculi / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Models, Neurological
  • Posterior Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Saimiri / anatomy & histology
  • Species Specificity
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate / administration & dosage
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate / pharmacokinetics


  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate