Evolutionary Evaluation of Reciprocity of Connections in the Turtle Tectofugal Visual System

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In two turtle species—Emys orbicularis and Testudo horsfieldi—by the method of anterograde and retrograde traicing at the light and electron microscopy level, the existence is proven of direct descending projections from the thalamic nucleus of the tectofugal visual system n. rotunds (Rot) to the optic tectum. After injection of tracers into Rot alone and into Rot with involvement of the tectothalamic tract (Trtth), occasional labeled fibers with varicosities and terminals are revealed predominantly in the deep sublayers of SGFS of the rostral optic tectum, while in the lower amount—in other tectal layers. After the tracer injections into the optic tectum, a few retrogradely labeled neurons were found mainly in the Rot ventral parts and within Trtth. Their localization coincides with that of GABA-immunoreactive cells. Electron microscopy showed the existence of many retrogradely labeled dendrites throughout the whole Rot; a few labeled cell bodies were also present there, some of them being also GABA-immunoreactive. These results allow us to conclude about the existence of reciprocal connections between the optic tectum and Rot in turtles, these connections being able to affect processing of visual information in tectum. We suggest that reciprocity of tectothalamic connections might be the ancestral feature of the vertebrate brain; in the course of amniote evolution the functional significance of this feature can be decreased and even lost in parallel with a rise of the role of direct corticotectal projections.

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