The anterior thalamic nuclei are one of the regions that play critical roles in behavioral learning and memory functions. A part of the anterior thalamic nuclei, the anteroventral nucleus (AV) is well developed and differentiated into the parvocellular (AVp) and magnocellular (AVm) division in the rabbit. The AV is crucial for learning discriminative avoidance conditioning. Although communication between the AV and cortex is considered important in learning, little is known about the neural connections of the AV in the rabbit. Thus, this study used anterograde tracer biotinylated dextran amine and the retrograde tracer cholera toxin B subunit to examine the organization of the thalamocortical projections of the AV. Our data show that each division of the AV provides a unique set of projections to restricted regions and layers of the retrosplenial cortex and presubiculum. In addition, the AVp projects to layers I and IV of retrosplenial areas 29 and 30 and to layers I and VI of the presubiculum. The dorsolateral AVm projects to layers I and IV of area 29 and to layers I, III, and V of the presubiculum. However, the ventromedial AVm only projects to layer I of area 29. These projections are generally organized such that the rostral-to-caudal axis of the AV corresponds to the caudal-to-rostral axis of the retrosplenial cortex and to the temporal-to-septal axis of the presubiculum. These findings suggest distinct functional roles played by each division of the AV in the learning and memory functions. J. Comp. Neurol. 523:726–741, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
The authors demonstrated the cells of origin and laminar and areal patterns of thalamocortical projections of the rabbit anteroventral thalamic nucleus, using anterograde and retrograde neuroanatomical tracers. The divisions of the anteroventral nucleus provide a different pattern of projections to the retrosplenial cortex and presubiculum.