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Abstract

The mediodorsal nucleus of the rat thalamus has been divided into medial, central and lateral segments on the basis of its structure and axonal connections, and these segments have been shown by experiments using the autoradiographic method of demonstrating axonal connections to project to seven distinct cortical areas covering most of the frontal pole of the hemisphere. The position and cytoarchitectonic characteristics of these areas are described. The medial segment of the nucleus projects to the prelimbic area (32) on the medial surface of the hemisphere, and to the dorsal agranular insular area, dorsal to the rhinal sulcus on the lateral surface. The lateral segment projects to the anterior cingulate area (area 24) and the medial precentral area on the dorsomedial shoulder of the hemisphere, while the central segment projects to the ventral agranular insular area in the dorsal bank of the rhinal sulcus, and to a lateral part of the orbital cortex further rostrally. (The term “orbital” is used to refer to the cortex on the ventral surface of the frontal pole of the hemisphere.) A ventral part of this orbital cortex also receives fibers from the mediodorsal nucleus, possibly its lateral segment, but the medial part of the orbital cortex, and the ventrolateral orbital area in the fundus of the rhinal sulcus receive projections from the paratenial nucleus and the submedial nucleus, respectively. All of these thalamocortical projections end in layer III, and in the outer part of layer I. The basal nucleus of the ventromedial complex (the thalamic taste relay) has been shown to have a similar laminar projection (layer I and layers III/IV) to the granular insular area immediately dorsal to, but not overlapping, the mediodorsal projection field. However, the principal nucleus of the ventromedial complex appears to project to layer I, and possibly layer VI, of the entire frontal pole of the hemisphere. The anteromedial nucleus does not appear to project to layer III of the projection field of the mediodorsal nucleus, although it may project to layers I and VI, especially in the anterior cingulate and medial precentral areas.

A thalamoamygdaloid projection from the medial segment of the mediodorsal nucleus to the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala has also been demonstrated, which reciprocates an amygdalothalamic projection from the basolateral nucleus to the medial segment. The habenular nuclei also appear to project to the central nucleus of the amygdala.

These results are discussed in relation to the delineation and subdivision of the prefrontal cortex in the rat, and to amygdalothalamic and amygdalocortical projections which are described in a subsequent paper (Krettek and Price, '77).