Mapping the avian visual tectofugal pathway using 3D reconstruction

Parker J. Straight, Paul M. Gignac, Wayne J. Kuenzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Image processing in amniotes is usually accomplished by the thalamofugal and/or tectofugal visual systems. In laterally eyed birds, the tectofugal system dominates with functions such as color and motion processing, spatial orientation, stimulus identification, and localization. This makes it a critical system for complex avian behavior. Here, the brains of chicks, Gallus gallus, were used to produce serial brain sections in either coronal, sagittal, or horizontal planes and stained with either Nissl and Gallyas silver myelin or Luxol fast blue stain and cresyl echt violet (CEV). The emerging techniques of diffusible iodine-based contrast-enhanced computed tomography (diceCT) coupled with serial histochemistry in three planes were used to generate a comprehensive three-dimensional (3D) model of the avian tectofugal visual system. This enabled the 3D reconstruction of tectofugal circuits, including the three primary neuronal projections. Specifically, major components of the system included four regions of the retina, layers of the optic tectum, subdivisions of the nucleus rotundus in the thalamus, the entopallium in the forebrain, and supplementary components connecting into or out of this major avian visual sensory system. The resulting 3D model enabled a better understanding of the structural components and connectivity of this complex system by providing a complete spatial organization that occupied several distinct brain regions. We demonstrate how pairing diceCT with traditional histochemistry is an effective means to improve the understanding of, and thereby should generate insights into, anatomical and functional properties of complicated neural pathways, and we recommend this approach to clarify enigmatic properties of these pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere25558
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • 3D modeling
  • diceCT
  • eye
  • forebrain
  • optic tectum
  • RRID:SCR_003182
  • RRID:SCR_008606
  • RRID:SCR_014431
  • RRID:SCR_017666
  • RRID:SCR_017997
  • RRID:SCR_023631
  • RRID:SCR_023684
  • RRID:SCR_023685
  • RRID:SCR_023686
  • RRID:SCR_023687


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