Organization of the medial pulvinar nucleus in the Macaque

Terence P. Ma, James C. Lynch, D. Kevin Donahoe, Hamdee Attallah, José A. Rafols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: The medial pulvinar appears to subserve the integration of associative cortical information and projects to visuomotor-related cortex. In contrast to the other pulvinar subdivisions, the medial pulvinar is a polymodal structure. Therefore, we studied the structural organization of the medial pulvinar to determine how it differs from the surrounding unimodal nuclei. Methods: Nissl-stained sections were examined to determine the boundaries of, and the distribution of neuronal sizes within, the medial pulvinar. In addition, Golgi-impregnated neurons were examined and drawn for analysis. Only rhesus monkey specimens were used, and the material had been prepared previously for other studies. Results: Projection neurons have round to oval somata and moderate numbers of primary dendrites that extend for short distances before branching into many secondary branches. Two variations of projection neurons (P1 and P2) were distinguished on the basis of the diameters of their dendritic tree. Both varieties have short dendrites that radiate in all directions. They differ in that P2 cells have longer second tier dendrites than P1 cells. Three types of local circuit neurons, tufted, radiating and varicose, were distinguished on the basis of their dendritic morphology. Four types of afferent fibers were identified. Type 1 afferents form cone-shape terminal arbors. Type 2 afferents are similar to those reported for retinal or cortical terminals. Type 3 afferents are of medium thickness and of an unknown origin. Type 4 afferents are thin and have small varicosities consistent with previously described cortical afferents. Afferent fibers are predominantly oriented along the mediolateral axis of the nucleus. We observed putative contacts between some afferents and local circuit neurons and between local circuit neurons and projection neurons. Conclusions: Medial pulvinar neurons are generally smaller and rounder than those found in the adjacent pulvinar nuclei. These results provide additional evidence for structural distinctions between thalamic nuclei having different functions. However, the observed differences are subtle. In addition, the data in this report provide morphological evidence that cortical signals are likely to be integrated by means of the circuitry located within the nucleus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-237
Number of pages18
JournalThe Anatomical record
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Diencephalon
  • Eye movement
  • Primate
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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