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J Comp Neurol. 1989 Apr 15;282(3):428-45.

Laminar and areal differences in the origin of the subcortical projection neurons of the rat somatosensory cortex.

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Department of Psychobiology, University of California, Irvine, California 92717.


Fluorescent retrograde tracing techniques were employed in a double-labelling paradigm to determine the distribution of corticospinal, corticotectal, and corticotrigeminal projection neurons in layer Vb of the adult and neonatal rat somatosensory cortex. The double-labelling paradigm allowed a direct comparison of the cortical distribution of neurons projecting to each target and identification of neurons projecting to more than one target. In the adult rat, each population of projection neurons was found to have a unique laminar and/or areal distribution. Corticospinal projection neurons were located throughout the width of layer Vb in the medial granular portion of somatosensory cortex, while corticotrigeminal projection neurons were distributed throughout the width of layer Vb in the more laterally located dysgranular portion of somatosensory cortex. Corticotectal projection neurons were located more superficially in layer Vb than either corticospinal or corticotrigeminal projection neurons and found scattered throughout both dysgranular and granular somatosensory cortex. Each combination of subcortical injections also resulted in double labelling a small percentage of uniquely distributed neurons. These distribution differences coupled with measurements of cell size allowed us to identify the parent population of the dual projection neurons. Subpopulations of corticotectal neurons also project to the brainstem trigeminal complex and to the spinal cord. Subpopulations of corticotrigeminal neurons also project to the spinal cord, and a proportion of corticotrigeminal neurons projects to at least two targets within the brainstem trigeminal complex (nucleus principalis and subnucleus interpolaris). In the adult rat, corticospinal neurons (as defined by either laminar position or somal size) did not appear to give off collaterals to either the superior colliculus or brainstem trigeminal complex. In the neonatal rat, double-labelled neurons which project to both the spinal cord and the tectum are distributed throughout the full width of layer Vb, rather than restricted to the superficial portion of the layer as in the adult rat. Further, it appears as if the ontogenetic change in the laminar distribution of corticospinal and tectal projection neurons is achieved by mechanisms of selective process elimination rather than cell death. These results are discussed in terms of both the developmental factor which may contribute to the discrete distribution of cortical projection neurons found in the adult and the functional significance of bifurcating projection neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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