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Neuroscience. 1992 Oct;50(3):571-95.

Topographical organization of the nigrotectal projection in rat: evidence for segregated channels.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, U.K.


Recent evidence suggests that projections from the superior colliculus to the brainstem in rat are organized into a series of anatomically segregated output channels. To understand how collicular function may be modified by the basal ganglia it is important to know whether particular output modules of the superior colliculus can be selectively influenced by input from substantia nigra. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to examine in more detail topography within the nigrotectal system in the rat. Small injections (10-50 nl) of a 1% solution of wheatgerm agglutinin conjugated with horseradish peroxidase were made at different locations within substantia nigra and surrounding structures. A discontinuous puff-like pattern of anterogradely transported label was found in medial and caudal parts of the ipsilateral intermediate layers of the superior colliculus. In contrast, the rostrolateral enlargement of the intermediate layers contained a greater density of more evenly distributed terminal label. Injection sites associated with this dense pattern of laterally located label were concentrated in lateral pars reticulata, while the puff-like pattern was produced by injections into ventromedial pars reticulata. Retrograde tracing experiments with the fluorescent dyes True Blue and Fast Blue revealed that injections involving the rostrolateral intermediate layers were consistently associated with a restricted column of labelled cells in the dorsolateral part of ipsilateral pars reticulata. Comparable injections into medial and caudal regions of the superior colliculus produced retrograde labelling in ventral and medial parts of the rostral two-thirds of pars reticulata. Both anterograde and retrograde tracing data indicated that contralateral nigrotectal projections arise from cells located in ventral and medial pars reticulata. The present results suggest that the main ipsilateral projection from substantia nigra pars reticulata to the superior colliculus comprises two main components characterized by regionally segregated populations of output cells and spatially separated zones of termination. Of particular interest is the apparent close alignment between terminal zones of the nigrotectal channels and previously defined populations of crossed descending output cells in the superior colliculus. Thus, the rostrolateral intermediate layers contain a concentration of terminals specifically from dorsolateral pars reticulata and output cells which project to the contralateral caudal medulla and spinal cord. Conversely, the medial and caudal intermediate layers receive terminals from ventral and medial pars reticulata and contain cells which project specifically to contralateral regions of the paramedian pontine and medullary reticular formation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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