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Cereb Cortex. 2012 Dec;22(12):2840-57. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr356. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

A morphological analysis of thalamocortical axon fibers of rat posterior thalamic nuclei: a single neuron tracing study with viral vectors.

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Department of Morphological Brain Science, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


The rostral sector of the posterior thalamic nuclei (POm) is, together with the ventral posterior nuclei (VP), involved in somatosensory information processing in rodents. The POm receives inputs from the spinal cord and trigeminal nuclei and projects to the primary somatosensory (S1) cortex and other cortical areas. Although thalamocortical axons of single VP neurons are well known to innervate layer (L) 4 of the S1 cortex with distinct columnar organization, those of POm neurons have not been elucidated yet. In the present study, we investigated complete axonal and dendritic arborizations of single POm neurons in rats by visualizing the processes with Sindbis viruses expressing membrane-targeted fluorescent protein. When we divided the POm into anterior and posterior parts according to calbindin immunoreactivity, dendrites of posterior POm neurons were wider but less numerous than those of anterior neurons. More interestingly, axon fibers of anterior POm neurons were preferentially distributed in L5 of the S1 cortex, whereas those of posterior neurons were principally spread in L1 with wider and sparser arborization than those of anterior neurons. These results suggest that the POm is functionally segregated into anterior and posterior parts and that the 2 parts may play different roles in somatosensory information processing.

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