The substantia nigra of the rat: A golgi study

Janice M. Juraska, Charles J. Wilson, Philip M. Groves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three variants of the Golgi method were employed to examine the cell types, their dendritic fields and organization and azonal trajectories within the substantia nigra of albino and hooded rats. In both sagittal and coronal sections, large, medium and small neurons were classified on the basis of soma size, extent of dendritic fields and dendritic caliber. In general nigral cells have three to five primary dendrites that branch relatively infrequently. Some dendrites of all cell types have thinly scattered spines or varicosities. Small cells, found in all areas of the nucleus, have thin dendrites and small, nondirectional dendritic fields. These are considered to be interneurons. The medium cells found in pars compacta, presumed to be the dopaminergic cells of the nigroneostriatal pathway, send long dendrites into pars reticulata perpendicular to the course of pars compacta. In addition, these cells have a number of dendrites which remain in pars compacta. These cells have axons that run medio‐dorsaslly. No axon collaterals were detected. Both large and medium cells are found in pars reticulata. Cells in the dorso‐medial aspect of pars reticulata orient rostro‐caudally and roughly perpendicular to the course of pars compacta, while cells in the perpeduncular area show a strict orientation which is parallel to the crus cerebri. Some pars reticulata cells emit axon collaterals while others remain unbranched for their observable length. Both large and medium cells are also seen in pars lateralis. These cells send long dendrites ventrally into pars reticulata where they run parellel to the crus cerebri, while some shorter dendrites remain in pars lateralis. In total, the substantia nigra appears to have a layered organization: the superior layer is the cellular pars compacta, the second is the dorso‐medial area of pars reticulata where both pars compacta and pars reticulata dendrites run rostro‐caudally and dorso‐ventrally and the third layer is the perpenduncular region where dendrites from all areas run parallel to the crus cerebri.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-599
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 1977
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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