The subthalamic nucleus (STN) and the zona incerta (ZI) are two major structures of the subthalamus. The STN has strong connections between the basal ganglia and related nuclei. The ZI has strong connections between brainstem reticular nuclei, sensory nuclei, and nonspecific thalamic nuclei. Both the STN and ZI receive heavy projections from a subgroup of layer V neurons in the cerebral cortex. The major goal of this study was to investigate the following two questions about the cortico-subthalamic projections using the lentivirus anterograde tracing method in the rat: 1) whether cortical projections to the STN and ZI have independent functional organizations or a global organization encompassing the entire subthalamus as a whole; and 2) how the cortical functional zones are represented in the subthalamus. This study revealed that the subthalamus receives heavy projections from the motor and sensory cortices, that the cortico-subthalamic projections have a large-scale functional organization that encompasses both the STN and two subdivisions of the ZI, and that the group of cortical axons that originate from a particular area of the cortex sequentially innervate and form separate terminal fields in the STN and ZI. The terminal zones formed by different cortical functional areas have highly overlapped and fuzzy borders, as do the somatotopic representations of the sensorimotor cortex in the subthalamus. The present study suggests that the layer V neurons in the wide areas of the sensorimotor cortex simultaneously control STN and ZI neurons. Together with other known afferent and efferent connections, possible new functionality of the STN and ZI is discussed.
Pubmed ID: 25048050 RIS Download
Mesh terms: Animals | Axons | Cerebral Cortex | Green Fluorescent Proteins | Immunohistochemistry | Lentivirus | Male | Neural Pathways | Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques | Photomicrography | Rats, Sprague-Dawley | Subthalamic Nucleus | Zona Incerta
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