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Bilateral and ipsilateral ascending tectopulvinar pathways in mammals: a study in the squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi)

Fredes, F;Vega-Zuniga, T;Karten, H;Mpodozis, J;

The mammalian pulvinar complex is a collection of dorsal thalamic nuclei related to several visual and integrative processes. Previous studies have shown that the superficial layers of the superior colliculus project to multiple divisions of the pulvinar complex. Although most of these works agree about the existence of an ipsilateral tectopulvinar projection arising from the stratum griseum superficialis, some others report a bilateral projection originating from this same tectal layer. We investigated the organization of the tectopulvinar projections in the Californian ground squirrel using cholera toxin B (CTb). We confirmed previous studies showing that the caudal pulvinar of the squirrel receives a massive bilateral projection originating from a specific cell population located in the superficial collicular layers (SGS3, also called the lower SGS or SGSL). We found that this projection shares striking structural similarities with the tectorotundal pathway of birds and reptiles. Morphology of the collicular cells originating this projection closely corresponds to that of the bottlebrush tectal cells described previously for chickens and squirrels. In addition, we found that the rostral pulvinar receives an exclusively ipsilateral projection from a spatially separate population of collicular cells located at the base of the stratum opticum, deeper than the cells projecting to the caudal pulvinar. These results strongly support, at a structural level, the homology of the pathway originating in the SGS3 collicular cells upon the caudal pulvinar with the tectorotundal pathway of nonmammalian amniotes and contribute to clarifying the general organization of the tectopulvinar pathways in mammals.