In order to evaluate the reciprocity of olivo-cerebellar and cerebello-olivary connections, a detailed description of the cerebellar nucleo-olivary projection in the rat is presented using small, iontophoretic injections of the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin.
Sparse projections were found to arise from the rostral part of the medial cerebellar nucleus toward the lateral part of the caudal medial accessory olive. Its medial parts receive a projection from the dorsolateral protuberance of the medial cerebellar nucleus. Caudal and lateral regions of the medial cerebellar nucleus project to the “beta” group and dorsomedial cell column.
Heavy olivary projections to circumscribed parts of the inferior olive were found after injections in the remaining cerebellar nuclei. The medial part of the posterior interposed nucleus connects to caudolateral areas of the rostral half of the medial accessory olive, whereas lateral areas project to more rostromedial parts. The most ventromedial part of the lateral cerebellar nucleus projects to the ventrolateral outgrowth. Adjacent medial, ventral, and caudal regions connect to the ventral leaf of the principal olive. The cerebellar origin of the projection to its dorsal leaf is located in lateral, dorsal, and rostral parts of the lateral cerebellar nucleus. The dorsolateral hump projects to the dorsomedial group of the rat inferior olive. Rostromedial projections to the dorsal accessory olive originate from the lateral part of the anterior interposed nucleus, whereas its medial parts project to more lateral and caudal regions of this olivary subnucleus. The dorsal fold of the dorsal accessory olive does not receive a projection from the cerebellar nuclei but from the lateral vestibular nucleus. No cerebellar projections were found to the dorsal cap. Relatively strong ipsilateral projections, which were the mirror images of the contralateral projections, were observed in the dorsomedial group, rostral medial accessory olive, and ventral leaf of the principal olive.
When both the inferior olive and the cerebellar nuclei are considered as folded but continuous sheets of grey matter, the complete nucleo-olivary projection can be described as a simple transformation.