Dentate control pathways of cortical motor activity. Anatomical and physiological studies in rat: comparative considerations.

P. Angaut, F. Cicirata


The dentato-thalamocortical projections have been studied in albino rats using anatomical and physiological approaches. The anatomical analysis reveals that the dentatothalamic input to the ventral thalamus and the thalamocortical projection from this region onto the motor cortical area have a complex topographical arrangement. The corticothalamic reverberating pathways, both direct and through a relay in the nucleus reticularis thalami, are also roughly arranged in register with the same topographical pattern. This arrangement has been reconciled with that of the motor cortex, as determined by the motor effects of intracortical microstimulations. From this is inferred a somatotopical arrangement of the cerebellar nucleus lateralis, or dentate. These observations are confirmed by the results of our physiological analysis. The movements obtained with direct microstimulations of the nucleus lateralis affect either one joint (simple movements) or, more seldom, several joints (complex movements) of the same limb. A rough rostrocaudal arrangement is found in the nucleus lateralis: the caudocentral regions of the nucleus contain the representation of the musculature of forelimb and head, whereas the hindlimb is represented in the rostralmost part of the nucleus. A more complex organization is found to be related to the three cytoarchitectonic subdivisions of the nucleus lateralis. The main, large-celled part of the nucleus is engaged in the control of the large skeletal musculature. The dorsolateral hump is involved in mouth and peri-oral activities. The ventral, parvocellular, subnucleus is involved in fine exploratory movements of vibrissae, eyes, and forelimb wrist and fingers. The implication of the dentato-thalamocortical pathways in the cortical motor activities in the rat is discussed with attention to the dentate control of the voluntary motricity in primates.

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