Mapping by laser photostimulation of connections between the thalamic reticular and ventral posterior lateral nuclei in the rat

Ying-Wan Lam, S Murray Sherman
Journal of Neurophysiology 2005, 94 (4): 2472-83
We used laser scanning photostimulation through a focused UV laser of caged glutamate in an in vitro slice preparation through the rat's somatosensory thalamus to study topography and connectivity between the thalamic reticular nucleus and ventral posterior lateral nucleus. This enabled us to focally stimulate the soma or dendrites of reticular neurons. We were thus able to confirm and extend previous observations based mainly on neuroanatomical pathway tracing techniques: the projections from the thalamic reticular nucleus to the ventral posterior lateral nucleus have precise topography. The reticular zone, which we refer to as a "footprint," within which photostimulation evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in relay cells, was relatively small and oval, with the long axis being parallel to the border between the thalamic reticular nucleus and ventral posterior lateral nucleus. These evoked IPSCs were large, and by using appropriate GABA antagonists, we were able to show both GABA(A) and GABA(B) components. This suggests that photostimulation strongly activated reticular neurons. Finally, we were able to activate a disynaptic relay cell-to-reticular-to- relay cell pathway by evoking IPSCs in relay cells from photostimulation of the region surrounding a recorded relay cell. This, too, suggests strong responses of relay cells, responses strong enough to evoke spiking in their postsynaptic reticular targets. The regions of photostimulation for these disynaptic responses were much larger than the above-mentioned reticular footprints, and this suggests that reticulothalamic axon arbors are less widespread than thalamoreticular arbors, that there is more convergence in thalamoreticular connections than in reticulothalamic connections, or both.

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