The European Journal of Neuroscience
As the functional properties of a cortical area partly reflect its thalamic inputs, the present study compared collateral projections arising from various rostral thalamic nuclei that terminate across prefrontal (including anterior cingulate) and retrosplenial areas in the rat brain. Two retrograde tracers, fast blue and cholera toxin B, were injected in pairs to different combinations of cortical areas. The research focused on the individual anterior thalamic nuclei, including the interanteromedial nucleus, nucleus reuniens and the laterodorsal nucleus. Of the principal anterior thalamic nuclei, only the anteromedial nucleus contained neurons reaching both the anterior cingulate cortex and adjacent cortical areas (prefrontal or retrosplenial), though the numbers were modest. For these same cortical pairings (medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate and anterior cingulate/retrosplenial), the interanteromedial nucleus and nucleus reuniens contained slightly higher proportions of bifurcating neurons (up to 11% of labelled cells). A contrasting picture was seen for collaterals reaching different areas within retrosplenial cortex. Here, the anterodorsal nucleus, typically provided the greatest proportion of bifurcating neurons (up to 15% of labelled cells). While individual neurons that terminate in different retrosplenial areas were also found in the other thalamic nuclei, they were infrequent. Consequently, these thalamo-cortical projections predominantly arise from separate populations of neurons with discrete cortical termination zones, consistent with the transmission of segregated information and influence. Overall, two contrasting medial-lateral patterns of collateral projections emerged, with more midline nuclei, for example, nucleus reuniens and the interoanteromedial nucleus innervating prefrontal areas, while more dorsal and lateral anterior thalamic collaterals innervated retrosplenial cortex.