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Abstract

To determine whether the largely ipsilateral, inverted representation of mouth parts in the ventrobasal thalamus of sheep was unique to that species or an expansion of a general mammalian pattern, the corresponding thalamic projections were mapped electrophysiologically in a selected series of mammals (opossums, agoutis, squirrel monkeys, cats, raccoons, and sheep) representing major branches of evolution among therian mammals. In mapping, tungsten microelectrodes were used to record multi-unit discharges in the thalamus in response to mechanical stimulation of oral surfaces. The pattern of projections seen in sheep is not a general mammalian pattern; there is extensive variability among mammals in the laterality and internal organization of the projections from the mouth. In spite of the great variability, the results suggest an hypothesis concerning phylogenetic trends: descendants of palaeoryctoid insectivores (cats, raccoons, and sheep in our sample) have extensive ipsilateral projections from the mouth, in other therian mammals (opossums, agoutis, and squirrel monkeys in our sample) the ipsilateral component is small or absent.