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Brain Res. 1988 Apr-Jun;472(2):119-37.

'Hidden lamination' in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus: the functional organization of this thalamic region in the rat.

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  • 1University of Oxford, Department of Human Anatomy, U.K.


The cyto-and myeloarchitecture of the rat's dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) display none of the laminar features characteristic of this thalamic region in carnivores and primates. Despite this, the rodent's nucleus contains a segregation of functionally and ocularly distinct afferents--organizational properties manifested in the prominent lamination of these other mammalian forms. The rat's dLGN can be divided into two main regions: an inner core and an outer shell. The inner core contains two ocular laminae receiving direct retinotopic projections from the contralateral nasal and ipsilateral temporal retinae, mapping the contralateral visual hemifield. The outer shell receives a retinotopic projection from the complete contralateral retina only, the representation of the ipsilateral hemifield being extremely compressed at the medial edge of this lamina. The retinotopic maps in these three ocular laminae (contra, ipsi, contra) are in conjugate register, so that lines of projection course rostro-ventro-medially from the optic tract at the thalamic surface through these laminae. Three morphologically distinct retinal ganglion cell types project to the dLGN, and the axons of these ganglion cells are partially segregated within the optic tract in anticipation of their segregation within the nucleus, where they terminate at distinct locations along the lines of projection. Type I and III cells terminate in the inner core of the nucleus, while type II and III cells terminate in the outer shell. The outer shell also receives a direct projection from the superior colliculus. These characteristics of the afferent termination within the rat's dLGN support the view of a general mammalian plan for the organization of this thalamic region, and provide a basis for further experimentation to test speculations about potentially homologous subdivisions of this nucleus. Conclusions regarding functionally analogous pathways are proposed with less confidence, due to the paucity of definitive evidence for physiologically distinct cell classes. The type I cells in the rat's retina are the likely homologues of the cat's alpha-cell. Geniculocortical relay cells driven by them have properties similar to the cat's Y-cell. The inner core of the nucleus then may transmit information of a Y-like nature onto striate cortex. The outer shell of the rat's nucleus, a portion of which receives collicular as well as retinal innervation, may convey W-like information onto striate cortex. The rat's retinogeniculate projection appears to be lacking a beta-cell-like pathway that may subserve X-cell function altogether.

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