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Prefrontal cortex in the rat: Projections to subcortical autonomic, motor, and limbic centers

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Abstract

This paper describes the quantitative areal and laminar distribution of identified neuron populations projecting from areas of prefrontal cortex (PFC) to subcortical autonomic, motor, and limbic sites in the rat. Injections of the retrograde pathway tracer wheat germ agglutinin conjugated with horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) were made into dorsal/ventral striatum (DS/VS), basolateral amygdala (BLA), mediodorsal thalamus (MD), lateral hypothalamus (LH), mediolateral septum, dorsolateral periaqueductal gray, dorsal raphe, ventral tegmental area, parabrachial nucleus, nucleus tractus solitarius, rostral/caudal ventrolateral medulla, or thoracic spinal cord (SC). High-resolution flat-map density distributions of retrogradely labelled neurons indicated that specific PFC regions were differentially involved in the projections studied, with medial (m)PFC divided into dorsal and ventral sectors. The percentages that WGA-HRP retrogradely labelled neurons composed of the projection neurons in individual layers of infralimbic (IL; area 25) prelimbic (PL; area 32), and dorsal anterior cingulate (ACd; area 24b) cortices were calculated. Among layer 5 pyramidal cells, approximately 27.4% in IL/PL/ACd cortices projected to LH, 22.9% in IL/ventral PL to VS, 18.3% in ACd/dorsal PL to DS, and 8.1% in areas IL/PL to BLA; and 37% of layer 6 pyramidal cells in IL/PL/ACd projected to MD. Data for other projection pathways are given. Multiple dual retrograde fluorescent tracing studies indicated that moderate populations (<9%) of layer 5 mPFC neurons projected to LH/VS, LH/SC, or VS/BLA. The data provide new quantitative information concerning the density and distribution of neurons involved in identified projection pathways from defined areas of the rat PFC to specific subcortical targets involved in dynamic goal-directed behavior. J. Comp. Neurol. 492:145–177, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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