Auditory thalamic reticular nucleus of the rat: Anatomical nodes for modulation of auditory and cross-modal sensory processing in the loop connectivity between the cortex and thalamus



The auditory sector of the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) plays a pivotal role in gain and/or gate control of auditory input relayed from the thalamus to cortex. The TRN is also likely involved in cross-modal sensory processing for attentional gating function. In the present study, we anatomically examined how cortical and thalamic afferents intersect in the auditory TRN with regard to these two functional pathways. Iontophoretic injections of biocytin into subregions of the auditory TRN, which were made with the guidance of electrophysiological recording of auditory response, resulted in retrograde labeling of cortical and thalamic cells, indicating the sources of afferents to the TRN. Cortical afferents from area Te1 (temporal cortex, area 1), which contains the primary and anterior auditory fields, topographically intersected thalamic afferents from the ventral division of the medial geniculate nucleus at the subregions of the auditory TRN, suggesting tonotopically organized convergence of afferents, although they innervated a given small part of the TRN from large parts. In the caudodorsal and rostroventral parts of the auditory TRN, cortical afferents from nonprimary visual and somatosensory areas intersected thalamic afferents from auditory, visual, and somatosensory nuclei. Furthermore, afferents from the caudal insular cortex and the parvicellular part of the ventral posterior thalamic nucleus, which are associated with visceral processing, converged to the rostroventral end of the auditory TRN. The results suggest that the auditory TRN consists of anatomical nodes that mediate tonotopic and/or cross-modal modulation of auditory and other sensory processing in the loop connectivity between the cortex and thalamus. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:1457–1480, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.