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Keywords:

  • cerebral cortex;
  • striatum;
  • nucleus accumbens;
  • Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin;
  • enkephalin

Abstract

The anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin was used to examine the topographical organization of the projections to the striatum arising from the various cytoarchitectonic subdivisions of the prefrontal cortex in the rat. The relationship of the prefrontal cortical fibres with the compartmental organization of the ventral striatum was assessed by combining PHA-L tracing and enkephalin-immunohistochemistry.

The prefrontal cortex projects bilaterally with an ipsilateral predominance to the striatum, sparing only the lateral part of the caudate-putamen complex. Each of the cytoarchitectonic subfields of the prefrontal cortex has a longitudinally oriented striatal terminal field that overlaps slightly with those of adjacent prefrontal areas. The projections of the medial subdivision of the prefrontal cortex distribute to rostral and medial parts of the striatum, whereas the lateral prefrontal subdivision projects to more caudal and lateral striatal areas. The terminal fields of the orbital prefrontal areas involve midventral and ventromedial parts of the caudate-putamen complex. The projection of the ventral orbital area overlaps with that of the prelimbic area in the ventromedial part of the caudate-putamen.

In the “shell” region of the nucleus accumbens, fibres arising from the prelimbic area concentrate in areas of high cell density that are weakly enkephalin-immunoreactive, whereas fibres from the infralimbic area avoid such areas. Rostrolaterally in the “core” region of the nucleus accumbens, fibres from deep layer V and layer VI of the dorsal part of the prelimbic area avoid the enkephalin-positive areas surrounding the anterior commissure and distribute in an inhomogeneous way over the intervening moderately enkephalin-immunoreactive compartment. The other prefrontal afferents show only a preference for, but are not restricted to, the latter compartment, In the border region between the nucleus accumbens and the ventromedial part of the caudate-putamen complex, patches of strong enkephalin immunoreactivity receive prefrontal cortical input from deep layer V and layer VI, whereas fibres from more superficial cortical layers project to the surrounding matrix.

Individual cytoarchitectonic subfields of the prefrontal cortex thus have circumscribed terminal domains in the striatum. In combination with data on the organization of the midline and intralaminar thalamostriatal and thalamoprefrontal projections, the present results establish that the projections of the prefrontal cortical subfields converge in the striatum with those of their midline and intralaminar afferent nuclei. The present findings further demonstrate that the relationship of the prefrontal corticostriatal fibres with the neurochemical compartments of the ventral striatum can be influenced by both the areal and the laminar origin of the cortical afferents, depending on the particular ventral striatal region under consideration.