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J Comp Neurol. 2005 Apr 11;484(3):283-98.

Organization of tectopontine terminals within the pontine nuclei of the rat and their spatial relationship to terminals from the visual and somatosensory cortex.

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Abteilung für Kognitive Neurologie, Hertie-Institut für Klinische Hirnforschung, Universität Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


We investigated the spatial relationship of axonal and dendritic structures in the rat pontine nuclei (PN), which transfer visual signals from the superior colliculus (SC) and visual cortex (A17) to the cerebellum. Double anterograde tracing (DiI and DiAsp) from different sites in the SC showed that the tectal retinotopy of visual signals is largely lost in the PN. Whereas axon terminals from lateral sites in the SC were confined to a single terminal field close to the cerebral peduncle, medial sites in the SC projected to an additional dorsolateral one. On the other hand, axon terminals originating from the two structures occupy close but, nevertheless, totally nonoverlapping terminal fields within the PN. Furthermore, a quantitative analysis of the dendritic trees of intracellularly filled identified pontine projection neurons showed that the dendritic fields were confined to either the SC or the A17 terminal fields and never extended into both. We also investigated the projections carrying cortical somatosensory inputs to the PN as these signals are known to converge with tectal ones in the cerebellum. However, terminals originating in the whisker representation of the primary somatosensory cortex and in the SC were located in segregated pontine compartments as well. Our results, therefore, point to a possible pontocerebellar mapping rule: Functionally related signals, commonly destined for common cerebellar target zones but residing in different afferent locations, may be kept segregated on the level of the PN and converge only later at specific sites in the granular layer of cerebellar cortex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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