Arborisation pattern and postsynaptic targets of physiologically identified thalamocortical afferents in striate cortex of the macaque monkey

T. F. Freund, K. A.C. Martin, I. Soltesz, P. Somogyi, D. Whitteridge

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The monosynaptic targets of different functional types of geniculocortical axons were compared in the primary visual cortex of monkeys. Single thalamocortical axons were recorded extracellularly in the white matter by using horseradish‐peroxidase‐filled pipettes. Their receptive fields were mapped and classified as corresponding to those of parvi‐ or magnocellular neurons in the lateral geniculate nucleus. The axons were then impaled and injected intraaxonally with horseradish peroxidase. Two magnocellular (MA) and two parvicellular (PA) axons were successfully recovered and reconstructed in three dimensions. The two MA axons arborised mainly in layer 4Cβ, as did the two PA axons in layer 4Cβ. Few collaterals formed varicosities in layer 6. Both MA axons had two large, elongated clumps of bouton (approx. 300–500 × 600–1,200 μm each) and a small clump. One PA axon had two clumps (each with a core appr. 200 μm in diameter); the other had only one (appr. 150–200 μm in diameter). The PA axon with two clumps had 1,520 boutons; the other PA axon had 1,380; one MA axon had 3,200 boutons; and those of the more extensive MA axon were not counted. The distribution of postsynaptic targets as well as the number of synapses per bouton has been established for a sample of 150 PA boutons and 173 MA boutons from serial ultrathin sections. The MA axons made on average 2.1 synapses per bouton compared to 1.79 for one PA axon and 2.6 for the other. The sample of boutons taken from the two physiological types of axons contacted similar proportions of dendritic spines (52–68%), shafts (33–47%), and somata (0–3%). The postsynaptic elements were further characterized by immunostaining for GABA. All postsynaptic perikarya and some of the dendrites (4.5–9.5% of all targets) were positive for the amino acid. Near the thalamic synapse GABA‐negative dendritic shafts frequently contained lamellar bodies, an organelle identical in structure to spine apparatus. Dendritic shafts and spines postsynaptic to the thalamocortical boutons frequently received an adjacent synapse from GABA‐immunoreactive boutons. The similarity between the magno‐ and parvicellular axons in their targeting of postsynaptic elements, including the GABAergic neurons, suggests that the structural basis of the physiological differences between 4Cα and 4Cβ neurons should be sought in other aspects of the circuitry of layer 4C, such as local cortical circuits, or in the far greater horizontal extent of the thalamocortical and GABAergic axons in layer 4Cα compared to those in the β subdivision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-336
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 8 1989


  • GABA
  • geniculocortical
  • immunocytochemistry
  • intracellular recording
  • thalamus
  • visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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