Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 220, Issue 2, pp 955–977 | Cite as

Possible anatomical pathways for short-latency multisensory integration processes in primary sensory cortices

  • Julia U. Henschke
  • Tömme Noesselt
  • Henning Scheich
  • Eike BudingerEmail author
Original Article


Multisensory integration does not only recruit higher-level association cortex, but also low-level and even primary sensory cortices. Here, we will describe and quantify two types of anatomical pathways, a thalamocortical and a corticocortical that possibly underlie short-latency multisensory integration processes in the primary auditory (A1), somatosensory (S1), and visual cortex (V1). Results were obtained from Mongolian gerbils, a common model-species in neuroscience, using simultaneous injections of different retrograde tracers into A1, S1, and V1. Several auditory, visual, and somatosensory thalamic nuclei project not only to the primary sensory area of their own (matched) but also to areas of other (non-matched) modalities. The crossmodal output ratios of these nuclei, belonging to both core and non-core sensory pathways, vary between 0.4 and 63.5 % of the labeled neurons. Approximately 0.3 % of the sensory thalamic input to A1, 5.0 % to S1, and 2.1 % to V1 arise from non-matched nuclei. V1 has most crossmodal corticocortical connections, projecting strongest to S1 and receiving a similar amount of moderate inputs from A1 and S1. S1 is mainly interconnected with V1. A1 has slightly more projections to V1 than S1, but gets just faint inputs from there. Concerning the layer-specific distribution of the retrogradely labeled somata in cortex, V1 provides the most pronounced feedforward-type outputs and receives (together with S1) most pronounced feedback-type inputs. In contrast, A1 has most pronounced feedback-type outputs and feedforward-type inputs in this network. Functionally, the different sets of thalamocortical and corticocortical connections could underlie distinctive types of integration mechanisms for different modality pairings.


Crossmodal Multimodal interplay Phase reset Rodent Stimulus detection 



Primary auditory cortex


Anterior pretectal nucleus, ventral division


Secondary auditory cortex, dorsal


Secondary auditory cortex, ventral


Anteroventral thalamic nucleus


Brachium of the inferior colliculus


Brachium of the superior colliculus


Cerebral peduncle


Caudate putamen




Dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus


External capsule


Fluorescein-labeled dextran amine


Fimbria hippocampus


Habenular commissure




Hindlimb area


Internal capsule


Intermediate gray layer of the superior colliculus


Intermediate white layer of the superior colliculus




Laterodorsal thalamic nucleus


Lateral posterior thalamic nucleus




Primary/secondary motor cortex


Medial geniculate body


MGB, dorsal/medial/ventral division


Medial lemniscus


Mean value


Marginal zone of MGB


Optic nerve layer of the superior colliculus


Optic tract


Posterior commissure


Posterior limitans thalamic nucleus


Posterior thalamic nuclear group




Retrosplenial dysgranular cortex


Reticular thalamic nucleus


Primary/secondary somatosensory cortex


Suprageniculate nucleus


Substania nigra, reticular part


Superficial gray layer of the superior colliculus


Tetramethylrhodamine-labeled dextran amine




Primary/secondary visual cortex


Ventral anterior thalamic nucleus


Ventrolateral thalamic nucleus


Ventral lateral geniculate nucleus


Venteromedial thalalamic nucleus


Ventral posterolateral thalamic nucleus


Ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus


Zona incerta



We thank Anja Gürke and Janet Stallmann for their excellent histological assistance and Alexander Waite for editorial help. This work was supported by the State Sachsen-Anhalt, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, and Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (grants of Sonderforschungsbereich Transregio 31 to T.N., H.S., E.B.), Germany.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

We declare that all animal studies have been approved by the appropriate ethics committee (see “Materials and methods”) and have, therefore, been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Supplementary material

429_2013_694_MOESM1_ESM.tif (19.5 mb)
Supplementary Figure 1 (Fig. 1 magenta/green). (A-C) Frontal sections showing the cytoarchitecture (blue-fluorescent Nissl-stain) of the primary auditory (A1), somatosensory (S1), and visual cortex (V1). (D-F) Frontal sections showing a representative injection site of tetramethylrhodamine-dextranamine (TMRDA) (magenta) into A1 (D), of fluorescein-dextran amine (FDA) (green) into S1/HL (E), and of FDA into V1 (F). (G) Horizontal section illustrating the anterograde and retrograde labeling in the medial geniculate body (MGV, MGM), brachium of the inferior colliculus (BIC), reticular thalamic (Rt), ventrolateral thalamic (VL), and ventral posterorlateral thalamic nucleus (VPL) following an injection of TMRDA into A1 and of FDA into S1. Note the TMRDA and FDA labeling in the MGM (arrows). (H) Frontal section illustrating the anterograde and retrograde labeling in the dorsal, ventral, and medial divisions of the medial geniculate body (MGD, MGV, MGM), marginal zone of medial geniculate body (MZMG), and suprageniculate thalamic nucleus (SG) following an injection of TMRDA into A1 and of FDA into S1. Note the retrograde TMRDA and FDA labeling in the MZMG (arrows). (I) Frontal section illustrating the anterograde and retrograde labeling in the MGD, SG, posterior limitans thalamic nucleus (PLi), and BIC following an injection of TMRDA into A1 and of FDA into S1. Within the SG, a double-labeled neuron (yellow fluorescent, enlarged in inset) can be seen. (K) Horizontal section illustrating the anterograde and retrograde labeling in the dorsal division of lateral geniculate body (DLG), lateral posterior (LP), posterior thalamic nucleus (Po), and Rt following an injection of TMRDA into V1 and of FDA into S1. Note the retrograde TMRDA and FDA labeling in Po (arrow). Scale bars 1 mm (D-G, K) and 500 μm (A-C, H, I). For other abbreviations see list. (TIFF 19973 kb)
429_2013_694_MOESM2_ESM.tif (16.3 mb)
Supplementary Figure 2 (Fig. 3 magenta/green). Serial reconstructions of sections through the thalamus showing retrograde labeling after injections of TMRDA into A1 and FDA into V1 (A, D), TMRDA into A1 and FDA into S1 (B, E), and TMRDA into V1 and FDA into S1 (C, F). Note the TMRDA and FDA labeling in the suprageniculate (SG), laterodorsal (LD), posterior thalamic nucleus (Po), and medial division of the medial geniculate body (MGM). Horizontal (A-C) and frontal sections (D-F), respectively. Scale bars 1 mm. For other abbreviations see list. (TIFF 16710 kb)
429_2013_694_MOESM3_ESM.tif (13.8 mb)
Supplementary Figure 3 (Fig. 5 magenta/green). Frontal sections showing retrogradely labeled somata (insets A, B, D, F and arrows in C, E) in the primary somatosensory (A, B), visual (C, D), and auditory cortex (E, F) following injections of FDA (green) and TMRDA (magenta) into A1 (B, D), S1 (C, F), and V1 (A, E). Scale bars 1 mm (A, B, D, F and insets C, E), 500 μm (C, E), 100 μm (inset A, B, D, F). For abbreviations see list. (TIFF 14166 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia U. Henschke
    • 1
  • Tömme Noesselt
    • 2
    • 3
  • Henning Scheich
    • 1
    • 3
  • Eike Budinger
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department Auditory Learning and SpeechLeibniz Institute for NeurobiologyMagdeburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biological Psychology, Institute of Psychology IIOtto-von-Guericke University MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany
  3. 3.Center for Behavioral Brain SciencesMagdeburgGermany
  4. 4.Clinic of NeurologyOtto-von-Guericke-University MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

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