The reticular thalamic nucleus (RTN) of the rat: Cytoarchitectural, Golgi, immunocytochemical, and horseradish peroxidase study

R. Spreafico, G. Battaglia, C. Frassoni

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Experiments have been performed on adult albino rats in order to study the cellular organization of the thalamic reticular nucleus. For this purpose four approaches have been used: Nissl stain, Golgi impregnation, retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase after injection in different thalamic nuclei, and immunocytochemistry with antibodies against GABA and glutamic acid decarboxylase. In sections through the horizontal plane, three morphologically different neurons have been observed. Cells with round perikarya and with multipolar dendrites were found predominantly in the rostral pole of the nucleus. Neurons with large fusiform cell body and with dendrites arborizing mainly on the horizontal plane were detected through the whole extent of the nucleus. Small fusiform neurons were observed almost exclusively in the medial third of the dorso-ventral extent of the nucleus. The Golgi impregnation method demonstrated that dendrites of small fusiform neurons develop in the vertical plane perpendicular to the dendritic arborization of large fusiform neurons. In coronal sections neurons with round perikarya and with large fusiform cell bodies are detectable while small fusiform neurons are only rarely visible. These data have been confirmed by statistical form factor analysis. Moreover, by means of the horseradish peroxidase and the immunocytochemical study, it has been confirmed that all three groups of neurons project within the thalamus and that they are GABAergic. The data concerning the distribution within the nucleus of the three morphologically different neurons are discussed in relation to the topographic distribution of cortical sensory afferents and to the topographic maps within different sectors of the reticular nucleus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-490
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991


  • axonal transport
  • GABA
  • immunocytochemistry
  • thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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