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J Comp Neurol. 1995 Feb 6;352(2):187-202.

Synaptic distribution of afferents from reticular nucleus in ventroposterior nucleus of cat thalamus.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of California, Irvine 92717, USA.


This study was aimed at determining the synaptic circuitry that contributes to the alterations in thalamic function that accompany changes in behavioral states. The somatosensory sector of the thalamic reticular nucleus (RTN) was identified by microelectrode recording in cats and injected with Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L). The axons of labeled RTN cells gave rise to collaterals within the RTN and continued into the dorsal thalamus where they terminated predominately in the ventral posterior lateral nucleus (VPL). After small injections in the upper limb representation of RTN, most labeled terminations in VPL were confined to its medial part, suggesting the presence of a topographic organization in the projection. Terminations were concentrated in localized, focal aggregations of boutons. Combined electron microscopic immunocytochemistry, using immunogold labeling for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), showed that the PHA-L labeled boutons were GABA-positive terminals that ended in symmetrical synapses. Eighty-two percent of these synapses were on dendrites of relay neurons, 8.5% on dendrites of interneurons, and 9.3% on somata. The terminals of RTN axons form the majority of axon terminals ending in symmetrical synapses in VPL. Their concentration on relay neurons probably underlies the capacity of the RTN projection to reduce background activity of VPL relay neurons in the awake state and to maintain oscillatory behavior of these neurons in drowsiness and early phases of sleep.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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