Possible anatomical pathways for short-latency multisensory integration processes in primary sensory cortices

Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Mar;220(2):955-77. doi: 10.1007/s00429-013-0694-4. Epub 2014 Jan 3.


Multisensory integration does not only recruit higher-level association cortex, but also low-level and even primary sensory cortices. Here, we will describe and quantify two types of anatomical pathways, a thalamocortical and a corticocortical that possibly underlie short-latency multisensory integration processes in the primary auditory (A1), somatosensory (S1), and visual cortex (V1). Results were obtained from Mongolian gerbils, a common model-species in neuroscience, using simultaneous injections of different retrograde tracers into A1, S1, and V1. Several auditory, visual, and somatosensory thalamic nuclei project not only to the primary sensory area of their own (matched) but also to areas of other (non-matched) modalities. The crossmodal output ratios of these nuclei, belonging to both core and non-core sensory pathways, vary between 0.4 and 63.5 % of the labeled neurons. Approximately 0.3 % of the sensory thalamic input to A1, 5.0 % to S1, and 2.1 % to V1 arise from non-matched nuclei. V1 has most crossmodal corticocortical connections, projecting strongest to S1 and receiving a similar amount of moderate inputs from A1 and S1. S1 is mainly interconnected with V1. A1 has slightly more projections to V1 than S1, but gets just faint inputs from there. Concerning the layer-specific distribution of the retrogradely labeled somata in cortex, V1 provides the most pronounced feedforward-type outputs and receives (together with S1) most pronounced feedback-type inputs. In contrast, A1 has most pronounced feedback-type outputs and feedforward-type inputs in this network. Functionally, the different sets of thalamocortical and corticocortical connections could underlie distinctive types of integration mechanisms for different modality pairings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Female
  • Gerbillinae
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / cytology
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / physiology