, Volume 99, Issue 2, pp 223-232

Input-output organization of the rat vibrissal motor cortex

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Abstract

The afferent and efferent connections of the vibrissal area of the rat motor cortex (VMCx) were investigated by injecting Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) or wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase into the physiologically defined VMCx. The VMCx formed reciprocal connections with the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, lateral and ventrolateral orbital cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and perirhinal cortex. These corticocortical afferents originated from cell bodies in layers II–III and V, and some afferents originated from cell bodies in layer VI of the primary sensory cortex. All of the VMCx efferents terminated in layers I and V or layers I–III and V. The VMCx also formed reciprocal connections with the ventrolateral, ventromedial and centrolateral nucleus, the lateral portion of the mediodorsal nucleus and the posterior complex of the thalamus. It projected bilaterally to the caudate putamen, primarily ipsilaterally to the superior colliculus, anterior pretectal nucleus, and pontine nucleus, and mainly contralaterally to the oral part of the spinotrigeminal nucleus and the reticular formation around the facial nerve nucleus. Finally, injections of PHA-L into the superior colliculus demonstrated that this structure projected contralaterally to the lateral part of the facial nerve nucleus. These data suggest that the VMCx plays a key role in sensorimotor integration, through its extensive interconnectivity with numerous brain structures, and may modulate orientation behaviors by relaying processed information to the superior colliculus.