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J Comp Neurol. 2008 Jun 10;508(5):840-66. doi: 10.1002/cne.21699.

Organization of the songbird basal ganglia, including area X.

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Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Area X is a songbird basal ganglia nucleus that is required for vocal learning. Both Area X and its immediate surround, the medial striatum (MSt), contain cells displaying either striatal or pallidal characteristics. We used pathway-tracing techniques to compare directly the targets of Area X and MSt with those of the lateral striatum (LSt) and globus pallidus (GP). We found that the zebra finch LSt projects to the GP, substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) and pars compacta (SNc), but not the thalamus. The GP is reciprocally connected with the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and projects to the SNr and motor thalamus analog, the ventral intermediate area (VIA). In contrast to the LSt, Area X and surrounding MSt project to the ventral pallidum (VP) and dorsal thalamus via pallidal-like neurons. A dorsal strip of the MSt contains spiny neurons that project to the VP. The MSt, but not Area X, projects to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and SNc, but neither MSt nor Area X projects to the SNr. Largely distinct populations of SNc and VTA dopaminergic neurons innervate Area X and surrounding the MSt. Finally, we provide evidence consistent with an indirect pathway from the cerebellum to the basal ganglia, including Area X. Area X projections thus differ from those of the GP and LSt, but are similar to those of the MSt. These data clarify the relationships among different portions of the oscine basal ganglia as well as among the basal ganglia of birds and mammals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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