Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 429–440

Chemoarchitectonic heterogeneities in the primate zona incerta: Clinical and functional implications

  • John Mitrofanis
  • Keyoumars Ashkan
  • Bradley A. Wallace
  • Alim-Louis Benabid


In view of the recent focus on the zona incerta (and surrounding regions) as a target for deep brain stimulation in patients with Parkinson Disease, we have explored incertal cyto and chemoarchitecture in normal and MPTP (methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine)-treated macaque monkeys. Brains were processed for routine tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), nitric oxide synthase (NOs), parvalbumin (Pv) and calbindin D 28k (Cal) immunocytochemistry, as well as for Nissl staining. We show four main sectors in the zona incerta, namely rostral, dorsal, ventral and caudal, each with a largely distinct cytoarchitecture. Each of the antibodies screened had signature distribution patterns across the zona incerta; TH+ cells were localised within the rostral sector, NOs+ cells were concentrated in the dorsal sector, Pv+ cells were found mainly in the ventral sector and Cal+ cells were distributed uniformly across all sectors. These patterns match closely those reported in non primates. We found no major differences in the distribution and shape of labelled cells in the zona incerta of MPTP-treated monkeys when compared to control. In conclusion, we report that the primate zona incerta shows considerable cyto and chemoarchitectonic heterogeneity; that it forms a nucleus with distinct sectors presumably associated with diverse functions--from generating arousal to shifting attention, and from controlling visceral activity to influencing posture and locomotion. These functions have been proposed for the zona incerta of non primates. Our results have clinical implications, in that deep brain stimulation of the zona incerta (or parts thereof) could manifest in signs and symptoms other than those associated with the motor system. Such clinical stimulations could well involve other systems, including those of arousal, attention and visceral control.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Mitrofanis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Keyoumars Ashkan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bradley A. Wallace
    • 1
    • 4
  • Alim-Louis Benabid
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical NeurosciencesUniversity of Joseph FourierGrenobleFrance;
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy & HistologyUniversity of SydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of LondonLondonEngland
  4. 4.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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