Projections of the retinorecipient pretectal nuclei in the pigeon (columba livia)

Academic Article


  • We have used anterograde autoradiographic and retrograde HRP techniques to investigate the efferent connections of the retinorecipient pretectal nuclei in the pigeon. In the accompanying paper we identified these nuclei in the pigeon as the nucleus lentiformis mesencephali–pars lateralis and pars medialis, the tectal gray, the area pretectalis, and pretectalis diffusus. Although there are reports of a few of the projections of these nuclei, they had not previously been the subject of a detailed study. We found that different cell types in the lentiformis mesencephali, pars medialis and the lentiformis mesencephali, pars lateralis have descending projections to different targets. These targets include the inferior olive, the cerebellum, the lateral pontine nucleus, the nucleus papillioformis, the nucleus of the basal optic root, the nucleus mesencephalicus profundus, pars ventralis, the nucleus principalis precommissuralis, and the stratum cellulare externum. We found that a few cells in the lentiformis mesencephali project to the medial pontine nucleus, but that a much heavier projection arises from the nucleus laminaris precommissuralis, which is medial to the nucleus lentiformis mesencephali, pars medialis. The tectal gray has predominantly ascending projections to the diencephalon. The nuclei that it projects to are the nucleus intercalatus thalami, the nucleus of the ventral supraoptic decussation, the nucleus posteroventralis, the ventral lateral geniculate nucleus, the nucleus dorsolateralis medialis, and the nucleus dorsolateralis anterior. The tectal gray also projects topographically to layers 4 and 8–13 of the optic tectum. Area pretectalis has both ascending and descending projections. It has ipsilateral ascending projections to the nucleus dorsolateralis anterior, pars magnocellularis, the nucleus lateralis anterior, and the nucleus ventrolateralis thalami. It has ipsilateral descending projections to the central gray, the nucleus of the basal optic root, pars dorsalis, the lateral pontine nucleus, and the deep layers of the optic tectum. It has contralateral projections to the area pretectalis, the nucleus Campi Foreli, the interstitial nucleus of Cajal, the nucleus of Darkschewitsch, the cerebellum, and the Edinger‐Westphal nucleus. The efferent projections of pretectalis diffusus are limited. It projects contralaterally to the pretectalis diffusus, and ipsilaterally to the nucleus of the ventral supraoptic decussation, the lateral pons, and the cerebellum. Our results demonstrate that, by way of their ascending and descending projections, the retinorecipient pretectal nuclei can exert important influences on the range of visuomotor functions in which they participate. We know that area pretectalis mediates the pupillary light reflex (Gamlin et al., '84) and that the lentiformis mesencephali is involved in optokinetic nystagmus (McKenna and Wallman, '85). However, to our knowledge, other potential roles of the retinorecipient pretectal nuclei have not been identified. Copyright © 1988 Alan R. Liss, Inc.
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    Author List

  • Gamlin PDR; Cohen DH
  • Start Page

  • 18
  • End Page

  • 46
  • Volume

  • 269
  • Issue

  • 1