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Neuroscience. 2006 Dec;143(3):895-904. Epub 2006 Sep 22.

Retinal projections to the subcortical visual system in congenic albino and pigmented rats.

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  • 1Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Wisconsin, 2015 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1102, USA.


The primary visual pathway in albino mammals is characterized by an increased decussation of retinal ganglion cell axons at the optic chiasm and an enhanced contralateral projection to the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. In contrast to the primary visual pathway, little is known about the organization of retinal input to most nuclei of the subcortical visual system in albino mammals. The subcortical visual system is a large group of retinorecipient nuclei in the diencephalon and mesencephalon. These areas mediate a range of behaviors that include both circadian and acute responses to light. We used a congenic strain of albino and pigmented rats with a mutation at the c locus for albinism (Fischer 344-c/+; LaVail MM, Lawson NR (1986) Development of a congenic strain of pigmented and albino rats for light damage studies. Exp Eye Res 43:867-869) to quantitatively assess the effects of albinism on retinal projections to a number of subcortical visual nuclei including the ventral lateral hypothalamus (VLH), ventral lateral preoptic area (VLPO), olivary pretectal nucleus (OPN), posterior limitans (PLi), commissural pretectal area (CPA), intergeniculate leaflet (IGL), ventral lateral geniculate nucleus (vLGN) and superior colliculus (SC). Following eye injections of the neuroanatomical tracer cholera toxin-beta, the distribution of anterogradely transported label was measured. The retinal projection to the contralateral VLH, PLi, CPA and IGL was enhanced in albino rats. No significant differences were found between albino and pigmented rats in retinal input to the VLPO, OPN and vLGN. These findings raise the possibility that enhanced retinofugal projections to subcortical visual nuclei in albinos may underlie some light-mediated behaviors that differ between albino and pigmented mammals.

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