A major direct GABAergic pathway from zona incerta to neocortex

Science  22 Jun 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4962, pp. 1553-1556
DOI: 10.1126/science.2360049


Retrograde fluorescent tracers were used to demonstrate a previously unknown but sizable direct gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-containing neuronal pathway from the zona incerta to the neocortex in rats. This incertocortical pathway was found to project bilaterally to the entire neocortex and exhibited a rough corticotopic organization. Many of the zona incerta neurons projecting to the parietal and occipital cortices could also be immunohistochemically stained with antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase and GABA. Few of these neurons were immunoreactive to tyrosine hydroxylase antibodies, which identify dopamine-containing neurons. Injections in the frontal and entorhinal cortices labeled many neurons near or within the dopaminergic A13 subdivision of the zona incerta. In addition, the incertocortical system was found to be significantly larger during early postnatal (2 to 3 weeks) development. The projection pattern of this newly discovered pathway resembles that of the monoaminergic and cholinergic systems, arising from the brainstem and forebrain, suggesting possible similarities of function.