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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Jul 21;384(1):1-25.

Neurochemical architecture of the human striatum.

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Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


The striatum of the human brain has a highly differentiated neurochemical architecture visible in stains for many of the neurotransmitter-related molecules present in the striatum. The distributions for these chemical markers have never been analyzed comprehensively. We compared the distributions of multiple neurochemical markers in a serial-section analysis of the caudate nucleus, the putamen, and the ventral striatum in normal human brains. The cholinergic system was identified with choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). The organization of the cholinergic fiber system was compared with that of striatal systems expressing immunoreactivity for calbindin D28k, met-enkephalin, substance P, tyrosine hydroxylase, and parvalbumin. Each striatal region analyzed displayed a unique neurochemical organization. In the dorsal caudate nucleus, the distribution of all markers followed the classical striosome/matrix organization as previously reported. In the dorsal putamen, ChAT-staining was less intense, and striosomes were delineated primarily by unstained fiber bundles. In the ventral caudate nucleus/nucleus accumbens region, the boundaries of ChAT-stained regions were not always visible with stains for calbindin, enkephalin, and substance P. The ventral putamen displayed a similar organization, except in its lateral part, where ChAT-poor regions were often found adjacent to, rather than in register with, regions expressing low levels of the other markers (calbindin, enkephalin, substance P, and tyrosine hydroxylase). Our findings suggest that, in addition to the classical striosome-matrix organization visible in the dorsal caudate nucleus and putamen, there is further neurochemical differentiation in a large ventral part of the caudate nucleus and putamen and in the ventral striatum-nucleus accumbens proper. The more complex relationships among the different neurochemical systems in the ventral striatum may reflect the increase in size in the primate of striatal regions associated with association and limbic cortex.

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