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J Neurosci. 2000 Mar 15;20(6):2369-82.

Striatonigrostriatal pathways in primates form an ascending spiral from the shell to the dorsolateral striatum.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Clinical manifestations in diseases affecting the dopamine system include deficits in emotional, cognitive, and motor function. Although the parallel organization of specific corticostriatal pathways is well documented, mechanisms by which dopamine might integrate information across different cortical/basal ganglia circuits are less well understood. We analyzed a collection of retrograde and anterograde tracing studies to understand how the striatonigrostriatal (SNS) subcircuit directs information flow between ventromedial (limbic), central (associative), and dorsolateral (motor) striatal regions. When viewed as a whole, the ventromedial striatum projects to a wide range of the dopamine cells and receives a relatively small dopamine input. In contrast, the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) receives input from a broad expanse of dopamine cells and has a confined input to the substantia nigra (SN). The central striatum (CS) receives input from and projects to a relatively wide range of the SN. The SNS projection from each striatal region contains three substantia nigra components: a dorsal group of nigrostriatal projecting cells, a central region containing both nigrostriatal projecting cells and its reciprocal striatonigral terminal fields, and a ventral region that receives a specific striatonigral projection but does not contain its reciprocal nigrostriatal projection. Examination of results from multiple tracing experiments simultaneously demonstrates an interface between different striatal regions via the midbrain dopamine cells that forms an ascending spiral between regions. The shell influences the core, the core influences the central striatum, and the central striatum influences the dorsolateral striatum. This anatomical arrangement creates a hierarchy of information flow and provides an anatomical basis for the limbic/cognitive/motor interface via the ventral midbrain.

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