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We are interested in similarities and conserved mechanisms in early development of the reptilian and mammalian thalamocortical connections. We set out to analyse connectivity in embryonic turtle brains (Pseudemys scripta elegans, between stages 17 and 25), by using carbocyanine dye tracing. From the earliest stages studied, labelling from dorsal and ventral thalamus revealed backlabelled cells among developing thalamic fibres within the lateral forebrain bundle and striatum, which had similar morphology to backlabelled internal capsule cells in embryonic rat (Molnár and Cordery, 1999). However, thalamic crystal placements did not label cells in the dorsal ventricular ridge (DVR) at any stage examined. Crystal placements into both dorsal and lateral cortex labelled cells in the DVR and, reciprocally, DVR crystal placements labelled cells in the dorsal and lateral cortices. Retrograde labelling revealed that thalamic fibres arrive in the DVR and dorsal cortex by stage 19. The DVR received projections from the nucleus rotundus and the dorsal cortex exclusively from the perirotundal complex (including lateral geniculate nucleus). Thalamic fibres show this remarkable degree of specificity from the earliest stage we could examine with selective retrograde labelling (stage 19). Our study demonstrates that axons of similar cells are among the first to reach dorsal and ventral thalamus in mammals and reptiles. Our connectional analysis in turtle suggests that some cells of the mammalian primitive internal capsule are homologous to a cell group within the reptilian lateral forebrain bundle and striatum and that diverse vertebrate brains might use a highly conserved pattern of early thalamocortical development.


Journal article


J Comp Neurol

Publication Date





26 - 54


Animals, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Corpus Striatum, Crystallization, Embryo, Nonmammalian, Embryonic Development, Fluorescent Dyes, Hypothalamus, Neural Pathways, Prosencephalon, Species Specificity, Thalamus, Turtles