Cholinergic and non-cholinergic projections from the upper brainstem core to the visual thalamus in the cat

Y. Smith, D. Paré, M. Deschênes, A. Parent, M. Steriade

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The projections of cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons of the rostral brainstem reticular formation to the visual thalamic nuclei (dorsal lateral geniculate - LG, lateral posterior - LP, and perigeniculate - PG) were studied in cat by using the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase conjugated with wheat germ agglutinin (WGA-HRP) combined with choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry. After thalamic injections, less than 10% of all retrogradely labeled neurons in the upper brainstem reticular core were located at most rostral (perirubral) levels where there are virtually no cholinergic elements. Approximately 75-80% of all HRP-positive neurons in the reticular formation were found between stereotaxic planes anterior 1 and posterior 2, in the peribrachial (PB) area of the pedunculopontine nucleus and in the laterodorsal tegmental (LDT) nucleus. The brainstem afferents to LG and PG thalamic nuclei essentially derive from PB neurons, with a small contribution from LDT cells, whereas the LP thalamic nucleus receives massive inputs from both PB and LDT brainstem nuclei. Of all HRP-positive elements visualized in the PB nucleus after an LG or a PG injection, 87% and 73%, respectively, were also ChAT-positive. Of all HRP-positive elements in the PB and LDT nuclei after an LP injection, 82% and 92%, respectively, were also ChAT-positive. The numbers of labeled neurons in the contralateral brainstem reticular nuclei reach 30% to 50% of the numbers found in the ipsilateral reticular formation. These findings reveal the existence of a prominent cholinergic projection from the brainstem reticular formation to the visual thalamic nuclei. Such a chemospecific projection is probably involved in phasic and tonic events of activated behavioral states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-180
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Brainstem core
  • Cholinergic neurons
  • Laterodorsal tegmental nucleus
  • Peribrachial area of pedunculopontine nucleus
  • Visual thalamus


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