Morphology of physiologically identified thalamocortical relay neurons in the rat ventrobasal thalamus

J Comp Neurol. 1986 Sep 22;251(4):491-505. doi: 10.1002/cne.902510405.


The anatomical structure of physiologically identified neurons of the rat ventrobasal thalamus was studied in order to determine if there are morphologically distinct subsets of neurons that correlate with the somatosensory submodalities processed by these cells. Intracellular recordings were used to determine the modality and receptive field of a neuron, after which horseradish peroxidase was iontophoretically injected into the cell, allowing it to be histologically visualized. Computer-assisted measurements of the labeled cells were made to quantitatively analyze the dendritic structure. Cells were divided into physiological groups stimulated by whiskers, glabrous skin, furry skin, noxious stimulation, or joint rotation. Qualitatively, all cells appeared similar, with the same types of branching patterns. Dendritic spines and long, sinuous appendages were found on all distal dendrites. Quantitatively, no statistically significant differences in dendritic structure were found between functionally defined groups with the aid of a number of parameters, including a fitted dendritic ellipse. There was a weak correlation between somal cross-sectional area and receptive field size, suggesting larger cells processed larger receptive fields. In summary, the ventrobasal thalamus of the rat, in contrast to that of higher mammals, appears to contain only one major cell type and to have a very simple neuronal circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology


  • Horseradish Peroxidase