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Neuroscience. 1999 Jan;88(1):119-33.

Double anterograde tracing of outputs from adjacent "barrel columns" of rat somatosensory cortex. Neostriatal projection patterns and terminal ultrastructure.

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University of Edinburgh Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Preclinical Veterinary Sciences, Summerhall, UK.


The sensory input to the neostriatum from groups of cortical cells related to individual facial vibrissae has been investigated at both light- and electron-microscopic resolution. The purpose of the study was to establish the extent to which corticostriatal input maintains the anatomical coding of spatial information that is present in cortex. A double anterograde tracing method was used to identify the output projections from groups of adjacent neurons in different barrel columns, so that the anatomical relationships between two groups could be studied throughout their length. Adjacent whiskers are represented in adjoining cortical barrels and an examination of corticostriatal projections from these reveals two patterns of projection. In one, the anatomical topography is partially preserved; the barrels are represented in adjoining, discrete, areas of the somatosensory neostriatum. In the second projection pattern, the neostriatal innervation is diffuse and adjacent barrels are represented in overlapping regions of the neostriatum. Moreover, the fibres are thinner, have smaller boutons, and are present in both the ipsilateral and contralateral neostriatum. The two systems also enter the neostriatal neuropile separately. The discrete topographic system enters the adjacent neostriatum as collaterals which leave the descending corticofugal fibres at right angles, while the diffuse system enters directly from the corpus callosum at an acute angle. Examination of the neostriatal terminal fields by correlated light and electron microscopy, shows that characteristic axospinous terminals on spiny neurons are made by both groups of cortical fibres, although they differ in their size and morphology. It is concluded that at least two corticostriatal pathways arise from the barrel cortex. One connection maintains some of the anatomical code implicit in the barrel pattern of primary somatosensory cortex, but another, more diffuse, system is overlaid upon it which may carry different information from this complex area of cortex.

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