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Keywords:

  • attention;
  • autonomic nervous system;
  • cerebral cortex;
  • nociception;
  • sleep;
  • vigilance

Abstract

The projections from the brainstem to the midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei were examined in the rat. Stereotaxic injections of the retrograde tracer cholera toxin β -subunit (CTb) were made in each of the intralaminar nuclei of the dorsal thalamus: the lateral parafascicular, medial parafascicular, central lateral, paracentral, oval paracentral, and central medial nuclei; in the midline thalamic nuclei—the paraventricular, intermediodorsal, mediodorsal, paratenial, rhomboid, reuniens, and submedius nuclei; and, in the anteroventral, parvicellular part of the ventral posterior, and caudal ventral medial nuclei. The retrograde cell body labeling pattern within the brainstem nuclei was then analyzed. Nearly every thalamic site received a projection from the deep mesencephalic reticular, pedunculopontine tegmental, dorsal raphe, median raphe, laterodorsal tegmental, and locus coeruleus nuclei. Most intralaminar thalamic sites were also innervated by unique combinations of medullary and pontine reticular formation nuclei such as the subnucleus reticularis dorsalis, gigantocellular, dorsal paragigantocellular, lateral, parvicellular, caudal pontine, ventral pontine, and oral pontine reticular nuclei; the dorsomedial tegmental, subpeduncular tegmental, and ventral tegmental areas; and, the central tegmental field. In addition, most intralaminar injections resulted in retrograde cell body labeling in the substantia nigra, nucleus Darkschewitsch, interstitial nucleus of Cajal, and cuneiform nucleus. Details concerning the pathways from the spinal trigeminal, nucleus tractus solitarius, raphe magnus, raphe pallidus, and the rostral and caudal linear raphe nuclei to subsets of midline and intralaminar thalamic sites are discussed in the text. The discussion focuses on brainstem-thalamic pathways that are likely involved in arousal, somatosensory, and visceral functions. J. Comp. Neurol. 448:53–101, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.