The organization of the claustrocortical system was investigated in rat by means of cortical injections of either lectin-conjugated horseradish peroxidase or retrograde fluorescent tracers. The latter were also employed in cat. Evans Blue, Fast Blue, True Blue, Nuclear Yellow and Diamidino Yellow were used in different combinations and were injected, uni- or bilaterally, in different cortical fields. Cells retrogradely labeled from each cortical injection were observed in the ipsi- and contralateral claustrum. Anterogradely labeled terminals were also seen in the claustra of both sides in the horseradish peroxidase experiments. The topographic and quantitative study of the distribution of labeled neurons showed a topographic organization of the rat's claustrocortical system, although a certain degree of overlap of the cell populations projecting to frontal and occipital fields was also evident. Four types of branched claustrocortical neurons were observed in the double labeling experiments: neurons branching ipsilaterally (A) or contralaterally (B) to anterior and posterior cortical fields; neurons branching bilaterally to homotopic (C) or heterotopic (D) cortical fields. Each population of branched neurons was equivalent to a different percent value of the total labeled cell populations; the percent value decreased from type A to type D. Type C branched neurons were also identified in the claustrofrontal system of the cat. The intricate organization of the claustral-ascending projections suggests that the nucleus is involved in different cortical activities and that its efferents may also provide the substrate of a powerful subcortical mechanism of interhemispheric communication.
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