The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the topographical organization of efferent projections from the cytoarchitectonic divisions of the mPFC (the medial precentral, dorsal anterior cingulate and prelimbic cortices). We also sought to determine whether the efferents from different regions within the prelimbic division were organized topographically. Anterograde transport of Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin was used to examined the efferent projections from restricted injection sites within the mPFC.
Major targets of the prelimbic area were found to include prefrontal, cingulate, and perirhinal cortical structures, the dorsomedial and ventral striatum, basal forebrain nuclei, basolateral amygdala, lateral hypothalamus, mediodorsal, midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei, periaqueductal gray region, ventral midbrain tegmentum, laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, and raphe nuclei. Previously unreported projections of the prelimbic region were also observed, including efferents to the anterior olfactory nucleus, the piriform cortex, and the pedunculopontine tegmental-cuneiform region. A topographical organization governed the efferent projections from the prelimbic area, such that the position of terminal fields within target structures was determined by the rostrocaudal, dorsoventral, and mediolateral placement of the injection sites.
Efferent projections from the medial precentral and dorsal anterior cingulate divisions (dorsomedial PFC) were organized in a similar topographical fashion and produced a pattern of anterograde labeling different from that seen with prelimbic injection sites. Target structures innervated primarily by the dorsomedial PFC included certain neocortical fields (the motor, somatosensory, and visual cortices), the dorsolateral striatum, superior colliculus, deep mesencephalic nucleus, and the pontine and medullary reticular formation. Previously unreported projections to the paraoculomotor central gray area and the mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus were observed following dorsomedial PFC injections.
These results indicate that the efferent projections of the mPFC are topographically organized within and across the cytoarchitectonic divisions of the medial wall cortex. The significance of topographically organized and restricted projections of the rat mPFC is discussed in light of behavioral and physiological studies indicating functional heterogeneity of this region.