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Keywords:

  • hypothalamus;
  • prefrontal cortex;
  • periaqueductal gray;
  • insula;
  • stress;
  • emotion;
  • visceromotor;
  • autonomic

Abstract

A previous study in the rat revealed that distinct orbital and medial prefrontal cortical (OMPFC) areas projected to specific columns of the midbrain periaqueductal gray region (PAG). This study used anterograde tracing techniques to define projections to the hypothalamus arising from the same OMPFC regions. In addition, injections of anterograde and retrograde tracers were made into different PAG columns to examine connections between hypothalamic regions and PAG columns projected upon by the same OMPFC regions. The most extensive patterns of hypothalamic termination were seen after injection of anterograde tracer in prelimbic and infralimbic (PL/IL) and the ventral and medial orbital (VO/MO) cortices. Projections from rostral PL/IL and VO/MO targeted the rostrocaudal extent of the lateral hypothalamus, as well as lateral perifornical, and dorsal and posterior hypothalamic areas. Projections arising from caudal PL/IL terminated within the dorsal hypothalamus, including the dorsomedial nucleus and dorsal and posterior hypothalamic areas. There were also projections to medial perifornical and lateral hypothalamic areas. In contrast, it was found that anterior cingulate (AC), dorsolateral orbital (DLO), and agranular insular (AId) cortices projected to distinct and restricted hypothalamic regions. Projections arising from AC terminated within dorsal and posterior hypothalamic areas, whereas DLO and AId projected to the lateral hypothalamus. The same OMPFC regions also projected indirectly, by means of specific PAG columns, to many of the same hypothalamic fields. In the context of our previous findings, these data indicate that, in both rat and macaque, parallel but distinct circuits interconnect OMPFC areas with specific hypothalamic regions, as well as PAG columns. J. Comp. Neurol. 432:307–328, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.