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J Comp Neurol. 1980 Jun;191(3):465-77.

The infrared trigemino-tectal pathway in the rattlesnake and in the python.


We have studied the infrared trigemino-tectal pathway of the rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and the python (P. reticulatus). In the rattlesnake, horseradish perosidase (HRP) injections into the nucleus reticularis caloris (RC) result in retrograde filling of cells in the ipsilateral nucleus of the lateral descending trigeminal tract (LTTD) and in the anterograde labelling of terminal fields in the contralateral optic tectum, confirming our previous finding of an RC-tectal projection. The primary projection of the pit organ of the rattlesnake was traced by injecting cobalt chloride into the pit, demonstrating that the pit organ projects exclusively to the ipsilateral LTTD. Electrophysiological recording from single units in the RC shows that these cells respond to infrared stimulation. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the infrared pathway in the rattlesnake proceeds from the pit organ to the LTTD, to the RC, to the contralateral tectum. In contrast, HRP injection into the tectum of the python results in the retrograde filling of the large cells of the contralateral LTTD. Thus, a direct LTTD-tectal projection occurs in the python. The cells of the rattlesnake RC and the larger cells of the python LTTD stain heavily for acetylcholinesterase activity and have a similar multipolar appearance, suggesting that the tectal-projecting cells in the two species may have a common origin.

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