Synaptic Organization of Connections between the Temporal Cortex and Pulvinar Nucleus of the Tree Shrew

We examined the synaptic organization of reciprocal connections between the temporal cortex and the dorsal (Pd) and central (Pc) subdivisions of the tree shrew pulvinar nucleus, regions innervated by the medial and lateral superior colliculus, respectively. Both Pd and Pc subdivisions project topographically to 2 separate regions of the temporal cortex; small injections of anterograde tracers placed in either Pd or Pc labeled 2 foci of terminals in the temporal cortex. Pulvinocortical pathways innervated layers I–IV, with beaded axons oriented perpendicular to the cortical surface, where they synapsed with spines that did not contain gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), likely located on the apical dendrites of pyramidal cells. Projections from the temporal cortex to the Pd and Pc originate from layer VI cells, and form small terminals that contact small caliber non-GABAergic dendrites. These results suggest that cortical terminals are located distal to tectopulvinar terminals on the dendritic arbors of Pd and Pc projection cells, which subsequently contact pyramidal cells in the temporal cortex. This circuitry could provide a mechanism for the pulvinar nucleus to activate subcortical visuomotor circuits and modulate the activity of other visual cortical areas. The potential relation to primate tecto-pulvino-cortical pathways is discussed.

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