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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jan;25(1):118-37. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht210. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Neurons in the basal forebrain project to the cortex in a complex topographic organization that reflects corticocortical connectivity patterns: an experimental study based on retrograde tracing and 3D reconstruction.

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Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, 07102, USA.
N. S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY 10962, USA.
Seton Brain & Spine Institute and Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA.


The most prominent feature of the Basal Forebrain (BF) is the collection of large cortically projecting neurons (basal nucleus of Meynert) that serve as the primary source of cholinergic input to the entire cortical mantle. Despite its broad involvement in cortical activation, attention, and memory, the functional details of the BF are not well understood due to the anatomical complexity of the region. This study tested the hypothesis that basalocortical connections reflect cortical connectivity patterns. Distinct retrograde tracers were deposited into various frontal and posterior cortical areas, and retrogradely labeled cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons were mapped in the BF. Concurrently, we mapped retrogradely labeled cells in posterior cortical areas that project to various frontal areas, and all cell populations were combined in the same coordinate system. Our studies suggest that the cholinergic and noncholinergic projections to the neocortex are not diffuse, but instead, are organized into segregated or overlapping pools of projection neurons. The extent of overlap between BF populations projecting to the cortex depends on the degree of connectivity between the cortical targets of these projection populations. We suggest that the organization of projections from the BF may enable parallel modulation of multiple groupings of interconnected yet nonadjacent cortical areas.


3D reconstruction; 3D statistical neuroanatomy; cell density; large-scale corticocortical connectivity; retrograde tracing

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