Development and Evolution of Thalamocortical Connectivity.
Molnár Z., Kwan KY.
Conscious perception in mammals depends on precise circuit connectivity between cerebral cortex and thalamus; the evolution and development of these structures are closely linked. During the wiring of reciprocal thalamus-cortex connections, thalamocortical axons (TCAs) first navigate forebrain regions that had undergone substantial evolutionary modifications. In particular, the organization of the pallial-subpallial boundary (PSPB) diverged significantly between mammals, reptiles, and birds. In mammals, transient cell populations in internal capsule and early corticofugal projections from subplate neurons closely interact with TCAs to guide pathfinding through ventral forebrain and PSPB crossing. Prior to thalamocortical axon arrival, cortical areas are initially patterned by intrinsic genetic factors. Thalamocortical axons then innervate cortex in a topographically organized manner to enable sensory input to refine cortical arealization. Here, we review the mechanisms underlying the guidance of thalamocortical axons across forebrain boundaries, the implications of PSPB evolution for thalamocortical axon pathfinding, and the reciprocal influence between thalamus and cortex during development.