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Thalamocortical projections to rat auditory cortex from the ventral and dorsal divisions of the medial geniculate nucleus



The ventral and dorsal medial geniculate (MGV and MGD) constitute the major auditory thalamic subdivisions providing thalamocortical inputs to layer IV and lower layer III of auditory cortex. No quantitative evaluation of this projection is available. Using biotinylated dextran amine (BDA)/biocytin injections, we describe the cortical projection patterns of MGV and MGD cells. In primary auditory cortex the bulk of MGV axon terminals are in layer IV/lower layer III with minor projections to supragranular layers and intermediate levels in infragranular layers. MGD axons project to cortical regions designated posterodorsal (PD) and ventral (VA) showing laminar terminal distributions that are quantitatively similar to the MGV-to-primary cortex terminal distribution. At the electron microscopic level MGV and MGD terminals are non-γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic with MGD terminals in PD and VA slightly but significantly larger than MGV terminals in primary cortex. MGV/MGD terminals synapse primarily onto non-GABAergic spines/dendrites. A small number synapse on GABAergic structures, contacting large dendrites or cell bodies primarily in the major thalamocortical recipient layers. For MGV projections to primary cortex or MGD projections to PD or VA, the non-GABAergic postsynaptic structures at each site were the same size regardless of whether they were in supragranular, granular, or infragranular layers. However, the population of MGD terminal-recipient structures in VA were significantly larger than the MGD terminal-recipient structures in PD or the MGV terminal-recipient structures in primary cortex. Thus, if terminal and postsynaptic structure size indicate strength of excitation then MGD to VA inputs are strongest, MGD to PD intermediate, and MGV to primary cortex the weakest. J. Comp. Neurol., 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.