Thalamic projections to sensorimotor cortex in the macaque monkey: use of multiple retrograde fluorescent tracers

J Comp Neurol. 1990 Sep 1;299(1):17-46. doi: 10.1002/cne.902990103.


We used several fluorescent dyes (Fast Blue, Diamidino Yellow, Rhodamine Latex Microspheres, Evans Blue, and Fluoro-Gold) in each of eight macaques, to examine the patterns of thalamic input to the sensorimotor cortex of macaques 12 months or older. Inputs to different zones of motor, premotor, and postarcuate cortex, supplementary motor area, and areas 3b/1 and 2/5 in the postcentral cortex, were examined. Coincident labeling of thalamocortical neuron populations with different dyes (1) increased the precision with which their soma distributions could be related within thalamic space, and (2) enabled the detection by double labeling, of individual thalamic neurons that were common to the thalamic soma distributions projecting to separate, dye-injected cortical zones. Double-labeled thalamic neurons projecting to sensorimotor cortex were rarely seen in mature macaques, even when the injection sites were only 1-1.5 mm apart, implying that their terminal arborizations were quite restricted horizontally. By contrast, separate neuron populations in each thalamic nucleus with input to sensorimotor cortex projected to more than one cytoarchitecturally distinct cortical area. In ventral posterior lateral (oral) (VPLo), for example, separate populations of cells sent axons to precentral medial, and lateral area 4, medial premotor, and postarcuate cortex, as well as to supplementary motor area. Extensive convergence of thalamic input even to the smallest zones of dye uptake in the cortex (approximately 0.5 mm3) characterized the sensorimotor cortex. The complex forms of these projection territories were explored using 3-dimensional reconstructions from coronal maps. These projection territories, while highly ordered, were not contained by the cytoarchitectonic boundaries of individual thalamic nuclei. Their organization suggests that the integration of the diverse information from spinal cord, cerebellum, and basal ganglia that is needed in the execution of complex sensorimotor tasks begins in the thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Macaca nemestrina / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes