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J Comp Neurol. 2000 Jul 24;423(2):197-219.

Geometry of rubrospinal, rubroolivary, and local circuit neurons in the macaque red nucleus.

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Brain Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.


The primate red nucleus consists of three main neuron subpopulations, namely, rubrospinal neurons in the magnocellular nucleus, rubroolivary cells in the parvocellular nucleus, and local circuit neurons in both subnuclei: Each subpopulation has unique cerebellar and neocortical inputs. The structural framework for the interactions of these rubral subpopulations remains poorly defined and was the focus of this study in six macaques. Somata of rubrospinal neurons, dorsolateral-spinal (DL-spinal) neurons, as defined in the accompanying paper (Burman et al. [2000] J. Comp. Neurol., this issue), and rubroolivary neurons were labeled retrogradely first with Fast Blue injected either into the cervical spinal cord or the inferior olive. The soma/dendrite profiles of selected cells (53 rubrospinal, 19 DL-spinal, and 17 rubroolivary cells) were visualized by the intracellular injection of Lucifer Yellow/biocytin in fixed slices (400 microm thick) of midbrain. The descriptive statistics of the somata and the dendritic arborization of each rubral neuron type were established. Projection neuron subpopulations had similar but differentiable soma/dendrite profiles, with four to six slender, spine-bearing dendritic trees radiating out approximately 400 microm from the soma. Twelve presumed interneurons, all in the parvocellular nucleus, differed from projection neurons in that they had smaller somata and many slender, spine-bearing segments that constituted the multibranching dendrite profile that radiated out approximately 250 microm from the soma. A tentative model of the macaque rubral microcircuitry was developed, and its functional implications were explored. It incorporated 1) the known topography of the nucleus and its connections, 2) our data specifying the soma/dendrite morphology of the three main rubral neuron types, and 3) the ultrastructure reported by other laboratories of intrarubral synaptic connections.

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