Intratelencephalic Projections of the Visual Wulst in Birds (Columba Livia)

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striate cortex, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin, cholera toxin, birds

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The visual wulst is the telencephalic target of the thalamofugal visual pathway of birds, and thus the avian equivalent of the striate cortex of mammals. The anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin was used to follow the intratelencephalic connections of the major constituents of the visual wulst in pigeons. In particular, efferent pathways from the granular layer (Intercalated nucleus of the hyperstriatum accessorium, IHA), supragranular layer (hyperstriatum accessorium, HA), and infragranular layers (hyperstriatum intercalatus superior and/or hyperstriatum dorsale, HIS/HD) were investigated. These efferent projections were confirmed by injections of the retrograde tracer cholera toxin subunit B into their terminal fields.

When a deposit of the anterograde tracer was centered in IHA, which receives the visual thalamic input, efferent fibers were seen to extend mainly dorsomedially to HA. When a deposit of the anterograde tracer was centered in HA, efferent fibers were seen to extend mainly in three directions: (1) medially to the tractus septomesencephalicus, which sends projections to extratelencephalic visual nuclei; (2) ventrolaterally to the lateral portion of the neostriatum frontale, where there were also labeled cells after the retrograde tracer was injected in HA; and (3) ventromedially to the paleosfriatal complex, which is the avian equivalent of the mammalian basal ganglia. Furthermore, relatively minor terminal fields were seen in (4) the neostriatum caudale, (5) neostriaturn intermedium, (6) archistriatum intermedium, and (7) hyperstriatum laterale. Finally, HIS/HD have projections predominantly to HA and the dorsocaudal telencephaion (area corticoidea dorsolateralis and area parahippocampalis), as well as relatively minor projections to the areas which also receive projections from HA. No anterogradely labeled fibers were seen in the tractus septomesencephalicus following the tracer injections in HIS/HD.

These results indicate that the visual information from the granular layer is distributed via the supragranular layer HA to multiple areas within the telencephalon, such as the neostriatum frontale and paleostriatal complex. In addition, HA is the source of an extratelencephalic projection via the tractus septomesencephalicus. Thus, the avian supragranular layer HA contains neurons which are the source of both intratelencephalic and extratelencephalic projections, whereas neurons of the mammalian cortex are segregated into two distinct layers, supragranular and infragranular layers, based on the targets of their projections. The findings are further discussed and compared to the mammalian striate cortex.

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Journal of Comparative Neurology, v. 359, issue 4, p. 551-572