Abstract

Corticostriatal and corticothalamic projections arising from the second somatosensory area in the rat were studied after labeling small pools of neurons in laminae V and VI with biocytin. Tracing the axon of single neurons revealed the following principles of organization: (i) all corticostriatal and corticothalamic projections arising from layer V cells are collaterals of long-range corticofugal axons that also project below the thalamic level; (ii) all layer V cells that project to the thalamus also project to the striatum; (iii) all layer VI corticothalamic cells project exclusively to the thalamus; (iv) cells of the upper part of lamina VI send collaterals to the thalamic reticular nucleus and arborize in the ventrobasal complex forming rod-like terminal fields; and (v) cells of the lower part of lamina VI also send collaterals to the thalamic reticutar nucleus, give off few branches in the ventrobasal complex and terminate principally in the caudal part of the posterior thalamic group. On the basis of these findings, and in the light of previous anatomical studies, it is proposed that the above mentioned organizing principles represent general rules that also apply to corticostriatal and corticothalamic pathways arising from other areas of the neocortex.