Neuronal connections of direct and indirect pathways for stable value memory in caudal basal ganglia

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Direct and indirect pathways in the basal ganglia work together for controlling behavior. However, it is still a controversial topic whether these pathways are segregated or merged with each other. To address this issue, we studied the connections of these two pathways in the caudal parts of the basal ganglia of rhesus monkeys using anatomical tracers. Our previous studies showed that the caudal basal ganglia control saccades by conveying long-term values (stable values) of many visual objects toward the superior colliculus. In experiment 1, we injected a tracer in the caudate tail (CDt), and found local dense plexuses of axon terminals in the caudal-dorsal-lateral part of substantia nigra pars reticulata (cdlSNr) and the caudal-ventral part of globus pallidus externus (cvGPe). These anterograde projections may correspond to the direct and indirect pathways, respectively. To verify this in experiment 2, we injected different tracers into cdlSNr and cvGPe, and found many retrogradely labeled neurons in CDt and, in addition, the caudal-ventral part of the putamen (cvPut). These cdlSNr-projecting and cvGPe-projecting neurons were found intermingled in both CDt and cvPut (which we call “striatum tail”). A small but significant proportion of neurons (<15%) were double-labeled, indicating that they projected to both cdlSNr and cvGPe. These anatomical results suggest that stable value signals (good vs. bad) are sent from the striatum tail to cdlSNr and cvGPe in a biased (but not exclusive) manner. These connections may play an important role in biasing saccades toward higher valued objects and away from lower valued objects.

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