The Journal Of Comparative Neurology
The avian centrifugal visual system, which projects from the brain to the retina, has been intensively studied in several Neognathous birds that have a distinct isthmo-optic nucleus (ION). However, birds of the order Palaeognathae seem to lack a proper ION in histologically stained brain sections. We had previously reported in the palaeognathous Chilean Tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria) that intraocular injections of Cholera Toxin B subunit retrogradely label a considerable number of neurons, which form a diffuse isthmo-optic complex (IOC). In order to better understand how this IOC-based centrifugal visual system is organized, we have studied its major components by means of in vivo and in vitro tracing experiments. Our results show that the IOC, though structurally less organized than an ION, possesses a dense core region consisting of multipolar neurons. It receives afferents from neurons in L10a of the optic tectum, which are distributed with a wider inter-neuronal spacing than in Neognathae. The tecto-IOC terminals are delicate and divergent, unlike the prominent convergent tecto-ION terminals in Neognathae. The centrifugal IOC terminals in the retina are exclusively divergent, resembling the terminals from 'ectopic' centrifugal neurons in Neognathae. We conclude that the Tinamou's IOC participates in a comparable general IOC-retina-TeO-IOC circuitry as the neognathous ION. However, the connections between the components are structurally different and their divergent character suggests a lower spatial resolution. Our findings call for further comparative studies in a broad range of species for advancing our understanding of the evolution, plasticity and functional roles of the avian centrifugal visual system. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.