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Keywords:

  • amygdala;
  • autonomic;
  • Barrington's nucleus;
  • bed nucleus of the stria terminalis;
  • hypothalamus;
  • paraventricular nucleus;
  • pelvic nerve

Abstract

The basic structural organization of axonal projections from the small but distinct magnocellular and ventral nuclei (of the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis) was analyzed with the Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin anterograde tract tracing method in adult male rats. The former's overall projection pattern is complex, with over 80 distinct terminal fields ipsilateral to injection sites. Innervated regions in the cerebral hemisphere and brainstem fall into nine general functional categories: cerebral nuclei, behavior control column, orofacial motor-related, humorosensory/thirst-related, brainstem autonomic control network, neuroendocrine, hypothalamic visceromotor pattern-generator network, thalamocortical feedback loops, and behavioral state control. The most novel findings indicate that the magnocellular nucleus projects to virtually all known major parts of the brain network that controls pelvic functions, including micturition, defecation, and penile erection, as well as to brain networks controlling nutrient and body water homeostasis. This and other evidence suggests that the magnocellular nucleus is part of a corticostriatopallidal differentiation modulating and coordinating pelvic functions with the maintenance of nutrient and body water homeostasis. Projections of the ventral nucleus are a subset of those generated by the magnocellular nucleus, with the obvious difference that the ventral nucleus does not project detectably to Barrington's nucleus, the subfornical organ, the median preoptic and parastrial nuclei, the neuroendocrine system, and midbrain orofacial motor-related regions. J. Comp. Neurol. 494:108–141, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.