Properties of the thalamic projection from the posterior medial nucleus to primary and secondary somatosensory cortices in the mouse

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 1;108(44):18156-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114828108. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Primary somatosensory cortex (S1) receives two distinct classes of thalamocortical input via the lemniscal and paralemniscal pathways, the former via ventral posterior medial nucleus (VPM), and the latter, from the posterior medial nucleus (POm). These projections have been described as parallel thalamocortical pathways. Although the VPM thalamocortical projection has been studied in depth, several details of the POm projection to S1 are unknown. We studied the synaptic properties and anatomical features in the mouse of the projection from POm to all layers of S1 and to layer 4 of secondary somatosensory cortex (S2). Neurons in S1 responded to stimulation of POm with what has been termed Class 2 properties (paired-pulse facilitation, small initial excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs), a graded activation profile, and a metabotropic receptor component; thought to be modulatory), whereas neurons in layer 4 of S2 responded with Class 1A properties (paired-pulse depression, large initial EPSPs, an all-or-none activation profile, and no metabotropic receptor component, thought to be a main information input). Also, labeling from POm produced small boutons in S1, whereas both small and large boutons were found in S2. Our data suggest that the lemniscal and paralemniscal projections should not be thought of as parallel information pathways to S1 and that the paralemniscal projection may instead provide modulatory inputs to S1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*