Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 212, Issue 2, pp 149–179 | Cite as

Anatomical analysis of afferent projections to the medial prefrontal cortex in the rat

  • Walter B. Hoover
  • Robert P. VertesEmail author
Original Article


The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been associated with diverse functions including attentional processes, visceromotor activity, decision making, goal directed behavior, and working memory. Using retrograde tracing techniques, we examined, compared, and contrasted afferent projections to the four divisions of the mPFC in the rat: the medial (frontal) agranular (AGm), anterior cingulate (AC), prelimbic (PL), and infralimbic (IL) cortices. Each division of the mPFC receives a unique set of afferent projections. There is a shift dorsoventrally along the mPFC from predominantly sensorimotor input to the dorsal mPFC (AGm and dorsal AC) to primarily ‘limbic’ input to the ventral mPFC (PL and IL). The AGm and dorsal AC receive afferent projections from widespread areas of the cortex (and associated thalamic nuclei) representing all sensory modalities. This information is presumably integrated at, and utilized by, the dorsal mPFC in goal directed actions. In contrast with the dorsal mPFC, the ventral mPFC receives significantly less cortical input overall and afferents from limbic as opposed to sensorimotor regions of cortex. The main sources of afferent projections to PL/IL are from the orbitomedial prefrontal, agranular insular, perirhinal and entorhinal cortices, the hippocampus, the claustrum, the medial basal forebrain, the basal nuclei of amygdala, the midline thalamus and monoaminergic nuclei of the brainstem. With a few exceptions, there are few projections from the hypothalamus to the dorsal or ventral mPFC. Accordingly, subcortical limbic information mainly reaches the mPFC via the midline thalamus and basal nuclei of amygdala. As discussed herein, based on patterns of afferent (as well as efferent) projections, PL is positioned to serve a direct role in cognitive functions homologous to dorsolateral PFC of primates, whereas IL appears to represent a visceromotor center homologous to the orbitomedial PFC of primates.


Claustrum Nucleus reuniens Memory Mediodorsal nucleus of thalamus Insular cortex 



Anterior area of amygdala


Anterior cingulate cortex


Nucleus accumbens


Anterodorsal nucleus of thalamus


Medial agranular (frontal) cortex


Lateral agranular (frontal) cortex


Anterior nucleus of hypothalamus


Agranular insular cortex, dorsal, posterior, ventral divisions


Anteromedial nucleus of thalamus, dorsal division

AON, m,v

Anterior olfactory nucleus, medial, ventral parts


Cerebral aqueduct


Anterior pretectal nucleus


Auditory cortex


Anteroventral nucleus of thalamus


Basal forebrain


Basolateral nucleus of amygdala


Basomedial nucleus of amygdala, posterior part


Bed nucleus of stria terminalis


Field CA1 and CA3 of Ammon’s horn


Cinguum bundle


Corpus callosum


Central nucleus of amygdala


Central lateral nucleus of the thalamus




Central linear nucleus


Central medial nucleus of thalamus


Cortical nucleus of amygdala




Cuneiform nucleus


Nucleus of diagonal band, horizontal limb


Dentate gyrus of hippocampus


Dysgranular insular cortex


Dorsal raphe nucleus


Entorhinal cortex, lateral, medial divisions


Ectorhinal cortex


Endopiriform nucleus


Frontal polar cortex, lateral, medial divisions


Fasciculus retroflexus


Fundus of the striatum


Granular insular cortex


Globus pallidus


Hippocampal formation


Interanteromedial nucleus of thalamus


Inferior colliculus


Interfascicular nucleus


Infralimbic cortex


Intermediodorsal necleus of thalamus


Insular cortex


Interpeduncular nucleus


Lateral nucleus of amygdala


Locus coeruleus


Lateral dorsal nucleus of thalamus


Laterodorsal tegmental nucleus


Lateral geniculate nucleus, dorsal division


Lateral habenula


Lateral hypothalamus


Lateral mammillary nucleus


Lateral orbital cortex


Lateral posterior nucleus of thalamus


Lateral preoptic area


Lateral septum


Lateral ventricle


Magnocellular preoptic nucleus


Mammillary bodies


Mediodorsal nucleus of thalamus


Medial nucleus of the amygdala


Medial forebrain bundle


Medial geniculate nucleus, ventral division


Medial habenula


Medial orbital cortex


Medial prefrontal cortex


Medial preoptic area


Median raphe nucleus


Mesencephalic reticular formation


Medial septum


Mammillothalamic tract


Nucleus incertus


Nucleus of lateral lemniscus


Nucleus of pons


Occipital cortex, primary and secondary divisions


Olfactory tubercle


Posterior nucleus of amygdala


Periaqueductal gray


Posterior parietal cortex


Parasubiculum of HF

PB, l, m

Parabrachial nucleus, lateral, medial divisions


Paracentral nucleus of thalamus


Parafascicular nucleus


Posterior nucleus of hypothalamus


Piriform cortex


Prelimbic cortex


Principal sensory nucleus of trigeminal nerve


Posterior nucleus of thalamus


Postsubiculum of HF


Pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus


Perirhinal cortex


Presubiculum of HF


Paratenial nucleus of thalamus


Paraventricular nucleus of thalamus


Radial arm maze


Nucleus reuniens of thalamus


Rhinal fissue


Rhomboid nucleus of thalamus


Rostral linear nucleus


Raphe magnus


Red nucleus


Nucleus pontis caudalis


Nucleus pontis oralis


Retrosplenial cortex


Retrorubral area


Reticular nucleus of thalamus


Superior colliculus


Septofimbrial nucleus


Substantia innominata


Stria medullaris


Submedial nucleus of thalamus


Substantia nigra, pars compacta, pars reticulata


Primary somatosensory cortex


Secondary somatosensory cortex


Subiculum, dorsal, ventral parts


Supramammillary nucleus


Temporal cortex


Amygdalo-piriform transition zone


Taenia tecta, dorsal, ventral parts


Third ventricle


Forth ventricle


Ventral anterior-lateral complex of thalamus


Ventrobasal complex of thalamus


Ventrolateral orbital cortex


Ventral medial nucleus of thalamus


Ventral orbital cortex


Ventral tegmental area


Zona incerta


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© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Complex Systems and Brain SciencesFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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