Conserved developmental algorithms during thalamocortical circuit formation in mammals and reptiles.
The general patterns of early thalamocortical development follow a similar sequence in all mammals. Thalamocortical projections descend through the ventral thalamus, advance in the internal capsule amongst cells which already possess dorsal thalamic projections, then reach the cerebral cortex by associating with subplate cells and their early corticofugal projections. Initially, the thalamic projections pause in the internal capsule and subplate layer. The interactions of the thalamocortical projections with the early generated, largely transient cells of the subplate, marginal zone, internal capsule and ventral thalamus are believed to play a crucial role in the organized deployment of thalamic projections and establishing a functional cortical architecture. Selective fasciculation, contact guidance and release of neurotrophic factors are thought to play roles in the development of thalamocortical projections. These ideas are obtaining support from recent work on reeler and other strains of mice. The evolutionary origin of these largely transient cells and the overlying logic of early developmental steps are not understood. The behaviour of the thalamocortical and corticothalamic projections at the corticostriatal junction is particularly puzzling. The comparison of early forebrain development in mammals and reptiles is beginning to reveal highly conserved cellular and molecular interactions during early thalamocortical development and to reveal homologies between telencephalic subdivisions.