The basal ganglia and pontocerebellar systems regulate somesthetic-guided motor behaviors and receive prominent inputs from sensorimotor cortex. In addition, the claustrum and thalamus are forebrain subcortical structures that have connections with somatosensory and motor cortices. Our previous studies in rats have shown that primary and secondary somatosensory cortex (S1 and S2) send overlapping projections to the neostriatum and pontine nuclei, whereas, overlap of primary motor cortex (M1) and S1 was much weaker. In addition, we have shown that M1, but not S1, projects to the claustrum in rats. The goal of the current study was to compare these rodent projection patterns with connections in cats, a mammalian species that evolved in a separate phylogenetic superorder. Three different anterograde tracers were injected into the physiologically identified forepaw representations of M1, S1, and S2 in cats. Labeled fibers terminated throughout the ipsilateral striatum (caudate and putamen), claustrum, thalamus, and pontine nuclei. Digital reconstructions of tracer labeling allowed us to quantify both the normalized distribution of labeling in each subcortical area from each tracer injection, as well as the amount of tracer overlap. Surprisingly, in contrast to our previous findings in rodents, we observed M1 and S1 projections converging prominently in striatum and pons, whereas, S1 and S2 overlap was much weaker. Furthermore, whereas, rat S1 does not project to claustrum, we confirmed dense claustral inputs from S1 in cats. These findings suggest that the basal ganglia, claustrum, and pontocerebellar systems in rat and cat have evolved distinct patterns of sensorimotor cortical convergence.
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