Unravelling the subcortical and retinal circuitry of the primate inferior pulvinar

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Abstract

The primate visual brain possesses a myriad of pathways, whereby visual information originating at the retina is transmitted to multiple subcortical areas in parallel, before being relayed onto the visual cortex. The dominant retinogeniculostriate pathway has been an area of extensive study, and Vivien Casagrande's work in examining the once overlooked koniocellular pathway of the lateral geniculate nucleus has generated interest in how alternate subcortical pathways can contribute to visual perception. Another subcortical visual relay center is the inferior pulvinar (PI), which has four subdivisions and numerous connections with other subcortical and cortical areas and is directly recipient of retinal afferents. The complexity of subcortical connections associated with the PI subdivisions has led to differing results from various groups. A particular challenge in determining the exact connectivity pattern has been in accurately targeting the subdivisions of the PI with neural tracers. Therefore, in the present study, we used a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided stereotaxic injection system to inject bidirectional tracers in the separate subdivisions of the PI, the superior layers of the superior colliculus, the retina, and the lateral geniculate nucleus. Our results have determined for the first time that the medial inferior pulvinar (PIm) is innervated by widefield retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), and this pathway is not a collateral branch of the geniculate and collicular projecting RGCs. Furthermore, our tracing data shows no evidence of collicular terminations in the PIm, which are confined to the centromedial and posterior PI.

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