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J Comp Neurol. 1975 Mar 15;160(2):167-203.

Lamination and differential distribution of thalamic afferents within the sensory-motor cortex of the squirrel monkey.


The structure of the first somatic sensory area (areas 3, 1 and 2), of the motor area (area 4) and the intervening transitional field (area 3a) is described in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) using Nissl, Bodian, Weil and Golgi preparations. The laminar arrangement of both cells and axons is briefly described and this correlated with the distribution of thalamic afferents as identified in experiments conducted with the Nauta and autoradiographic techniques. The latter method was used particularly in order to assess quantitative differences in the density of thalamic projections to the five cytoarchitectonic fields. In the somatic sensory areas thalamic afferents terminate not only in layer IV but a large extent also in a recognizable part of layer III (layer IIIb). In area 4 thalamic terminals fill much of layer III, reaching almost to layer II. In area 3a the extent is intermediate between that seen in areas 3 and 4. It is thought that the extensive spread of thalamic terminals is related to the elongated form of a particular class of spine-bearing cell whose somata are situated in layer IV (Jones, '75). In all areas a small proportion of thalamic afferents end also in layer I. Evidence is presented to indicate that specific afferent fibers emanating from the ventrobasal and ventrolateral complexes of the thalamus terminate in both the deep and superficial parts of layer I while "non-specific" afferents from other thalamic sources end in the superficial part. The autoradiographic studies indicate that there are considerable differences between the number of thalamic afferents ending in area 3 on the one hand and in areas 1 and 2 on the other. Given this and the nature of the degenerating thalamic afferents observed in Nauta preparations, it is possible to identify thalamic afferents in normal Golgi preparations and significant differences are detectable in areas 4, 3 and 1 and 2. It it is as yet uncertain whether the slightly thinner, more sparsely distributed thalamic afferents ending in areas 1 and 2 are branches of those directed primarily to area 3.

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