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Keywords:

  • 3-D reconstruction;
  • axonal tracing;
  • brain maps;
  • cerebellum;
  • corticopontine pathways;
  • pontocerebellar pathways

Abstract

The granule cell layer of the cerebellar hemispheres contains a patchy and noncontinuous map of the body surface, consisting of a complex mosaic of multiple perioral tactile representations. Previous physiological studies have shown that cerebrocerebellar mossy fibre projections, conveyed through the pontine nuclei, are mapped in registration with peripheral tactile projections to the cerebellum. In contrast to the fractured cerebellar map, the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) is somatotopically organized. To understand better the map transformation occurring in cerebrocerebellar pathways, we injected axonal tracers in electrophysiologically defined locations in Sprague–Dawley rat folium crus IIa, and mapped the distribution of retrogradely labelled neurons within the pontine nuclei using three-dimensional (3-D) reconstructions. Tracer injections within the large central upper lip patch in crus IIa-labelled neurons located centrally in the pontine nuclei, primarily contralateral to the injected side. Larger injections (covering multiple crus IIa perioral representations) resulted in labelling extending only slightly beyond this region, with a higher density and more ipsilaterally labelled neurons. Combined axonal tracer injections in upper lip representations in SI and crus IIa, revealed a close spatial correspondence between the cerebropontine terminal fields and the crus IIa projecting neurons. Finally, comparisons with previously published three-dimensional distributions of pontine neurons labelled following tracer injections in face receiving regions in the paramedian lobule (downloaded from http://www.rbwb.org) revealed similar correspondence. The present data support the coherent topographical organization of cerebro-ponto-cerebellar networks previously suggested from physiological studies. We discuss the present findings in the context of transformations from cerebral somatotopic to cerebellar fractured tactile representations.