Physiological Psychology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 1–6 | Cite as

The prefrontal cortex: Projection area of the thalamic mediodorsal nucleus?

  • Hans J. Markowitsch
  • Monika Pritzel


The historical bases of the definitions of the prefrontal cortex are reviewed (cytoarchitecture, electrical unexcitability, afferents from the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus). Evidence is presented that the widely accepted proposal of Rose and Woolsey (1948) to name all cortex prefrontal that is reached by afferents from the mediodorsal nucleus is questionable for three reasons: the diversity of cortical fields reached by the mediodorsal nucleus, the overlapping of thalamic projections, and the possibility of a column- or band-like thalamocortical organization. An alternative approach to a definition of the prefrontal cortex is suggested.


Prefrontal Cortex Brain Research Thalamic Nucleus Tree Shrew Sylvian Fissure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ariens-Kappers, C. U., Huber, G. C., & Crosby, E. C. The comparative anatomy of the nervous system of vertebrates, including man (Vol. III). New York: Hafner, 1936.Google Scholar
  2. Akert, K. Comparative anatomy of frontal cortex and thalamofrontal connections. In J. M. Warren & K. Akert (Eds.), The frontal granular cortex and behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.Google Scholar
  3. Avancini, G., Mancia, D., & Pelliccioli, G. Ascending and descending connections of the insular cortex of the cat. Archives Italiennes de Biologie, 1969, 107, 696–714.Google Scholar
  4. Beckstead, R. M. Convergent thalamic and mesencephalic projections to the anterior medial cortex in the rat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1976, 166, 403–416.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benevento, L. A., & Loe, P. R. An intracellular study of thalamocortical synapses in the orbito-insular cortex of the cat. Experimental Neurology, 1975, 46, 634–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benjamin, R. M., Jackson, J. C., & Golden, G. T. Cortical projections of the thalamic mediodorsal nucleus in the rabbit. Brain Research, 1978, 141, 251–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berson, D. M., & Graybiel, A. M. Parallel thalamic zones in the LP-pulvinar complex of the cat identified by their afferent and efferent connections. Brain Research, 1978, 147, 139–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bianchi, L. The functions of the frontal lobes. Brain, 1895, 18, 497–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Björklund, A., Divac, I., & Lindvall, O. Regional distribution of catecholamines in monkey cerebral cortex, evidence for a dopaminergic innervation of the primate prefrontal cortex. Neuroscience Letters, 1978, 7, 115–119.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bolton, J. S. The functions of the frontal lobes. Brain, 1903, 26, 215–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brodmann, K. Vergleichende Lokalisationslehre der Grosshirnrinde in ihren Prinzipien dargestellt auf Grund des Zellenbaues. Leipzig, Germany: Barth, 1909.Google Scholar
  12. Brodmann, K. Neue Ergebnisse über die vergleichende histologische Lokalisation der Grosshirnrinde mit besonderer Berück-sichtigung des Stirnhirns. Anatomischer Anzeiger, 1912, 41(Ergànzungsheft), 157-216.Google Scholar
  13. Brutkowski, S. Functions of prefrontal cortex in animals. Physiological Reviews, 1965, 45, 721–746.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Buser, P., & Bignall, K. Nonprimary sensory projection on the neocortex. International Review of Neurobiology, 1967, 10, 111–165.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chavis, D. A., & Pandya, D. N. Further observations on corticofrontal connections in the rhesus monkey. Brain Research, 1976, 117, 369–386.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clark, W. E. LeG. An experimental study of thalamic connections in the rat. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 1932, 222, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clark, W. E. LeG., & Boggon, R. H. On the connections of the medial cell groups of the thalamus. Brain, 1933, 56, 83–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clark, W. E. LeG., & Boggon, R. H. The thalamic connections of the parietal and frontal lobes of the brain in the monkey. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 1935, 224, 313–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cowan, W. M. Recent advances in neuroanatomical methodology. In D. B. Tower (Ed.), The nervous system (Vol. 1) The basic neurosciences. New York: Raven Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  20. Crouch, R. L. The efferent fibres of the thalamus of Macaca rhesus. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1940, 72, 177–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Divac, I., Kosmal, A., Bjõrklund, A., & Lindvall, O. Subcortical projections to the prefrontal cortex in the rat. Abstracts of the Society for Neuroscience, 1976, 2, 134.Google Scholar
  22. Divac, I., Markowttsch, H. J., & Pritzel, M. Behavioral and anatomical consequences of small intrastriatal injections of kainic acid in the rat. Brain Research, 1978, 151, 523–532.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Domesick, V. B. Thalamic relationships of the medial cortex in the rat. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 1972, 6, 457–483.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ferrier, D. The Croonian lecture. Experiments on the brain of monkeys (Second series). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1875, 165, 433–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feuchtwanger, E. Die Funktionen des Stirnhirns. Ihre Pathologie und Psychologic Berlin: Springer, 1923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Flechsig, P. Die Lokalisation der gestigen Vorġänge, insbeson-dere der Sinnesempfindungen des Menschen. Leipzig, Germany: Veit, 1896.Google Scholar
  27. Franz, S. I. On the functions of the cerebrum: I. The frontal lobes in relation to the production and retention of simple sensory-motor habits. American Journal of Physiology, 1902, 8, 1–22.Google Scholar
  28. Freeman, W., & Watts, J. W. Retrograde degeneration of the thalamus following prefrontal lobotomy. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1947, 86, 65–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goldman, P. S. Maturation of the mammalian nervous system and the ontogeny of behavior. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 1976, 7, 1–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heimer, L.,& Lohman, A. H. M. Anatomical methods for tracing connections in the central nervous system. In M. S. Gazzaniga & C. Blakemore (Eds.), Handbook of psychobiology. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  31. Hines, M. On cerebral localization. Physiological Reviews, 1929, 9, 462–574.Google Scholar
  32. Hitzig, E. Zur Physiologie des Grosshirns. Archiv fur Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 1884, 15, 270–275.Google Scholar
  33. Horsley, V., & SchÄfer, E. A. A record of experiments upon the functions of the cerebral cortex. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 1888, 179, 1–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jacobson, S., & Trojanowski, J. Q. Prefrontal granular cortex of the rhesus monkey. I. Intrahemispheric cortical afferents. Brain Research, 1977, 132, 209–233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson, T. N., Rosvold, H. E., Galkin, T. W., & Goldman, P. S. Postnatal maturation of subcortical projections from the prefrontal cortex in the rhesus monkey. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1976, 166, 427–444.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnson, T. N., Rosvold, H. E., & Mishkin, M. Projections from behaviorally-defined sectors of the prefrontal cortex to the basal ganglia, septum, and diencephalon of the monkey. Experimental Neurology, 1968, 21, 20–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kievit, J., & Kuypers, H. G. J. M. Subcortical afferents to the frontal lobe in the rhesus monkey studied by means of retrograde horseradish peroxidase transport. Brain Research, 1975, 85, 261–266.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kievit, J., & Kuypers, H. G. J. M. Organization of the thalamocortical connexions to the frontal lobe in the rhesus monkey. Experimental Brain Research, 1977, 29, 299–322.Google Scholar
  39. Krettek, J. E., & Price, J. L. The cortical projections of the mediodorsal nucleus and adjacent thalamic nuclei in the rat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1977, 171, 157–192.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Krieg, W. J. S. Connections of the cerebral cortex. I. The albino rat. A. Topography of the cortical areas. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1946, 84, 221–227.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krieg, W. J. S. Connections of the cerebral cortex. I. The albino rat. C. Extrinsic connections. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1947, 86, 267–394.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kristensson, K., & Olson, Y. Retrograde axonal transport of protein. Brain Research, 1971, 29, 363–365.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lasek, R., Joseph, B. S., & Whitlock, D. G. Evaluation of a radioautographic neuroanatomical tracing method. Brain Research, 1968, 8, 319–336.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lashley, K. S. Brain mechanisms and intelligence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929.Google Scholar
  45. Lashley, K. S. Thalamo-cortical connections of the rat’s brain. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1941, 75, 67–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. LaVail, J. H., & LaVail, M. M. Retrograde axonal transport in the central nervous system. Science, 1972, 176, 1415–1417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Leonard, C. M. The prefrontal cortex of the rat. I. Cortical projection of the mediodorsal nucleus. II. Efferent connections. Brain Research, 1969, 12, 321–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Leonard, C. M. The connections of the dorsomedial nuclei. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 1972, 6, 524–541.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lindvall, O., Björklund, A., & Divac, I. Organization of catecholamine neurons projecting to the frontal cortex in the rat. Brain Research, 1978, 142, 1–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Locke, S. Thalamic connections to insular and opercular cortex of monkey. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1967, 129, 219–240.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lukaszewska, I. Perseverative errors in normal and frontal rats in returning behavior test. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 1971, 31, 101–109.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Markowttsch, H. J., & Pritzel, M. Learning and the prefrontal cortex of the cat: Anatomico-behavioral interrelations. Physiological Psychology, 1976, 4, 247–261.Google Scholar
  53. Markowitsch, H. J., & Pritzel, M. Comparative analysis of prefrontal learning functions in rats, cats, and monkeys. Psychological Bulletin, 1977, 84, 817–837.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Markowttsch, H. J., & Pritzel, M. Single unit activity in cat prefrontal and posterior association cortex during performance of spatial reversal tasks. Brain Research, 1978, 149, 53–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Markowitsch, H. J., Pritzel, M., & Divac, I. The prefrontal cortex of the cat: Anatomical subdivisions based on retrograde labeling of cells in the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus. Experimental Brain Research, 1978, 32, 335–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mesulam, M.-M., van Hoesen, G. W., Pandya, D. N., & Geschwind, N. Limbic and sensory connections of the interior parietal lobule (area PG) in the rhesus monkey: A study with a new method for horesradish peroxidase histochemistry. Brain Research, 1977, 136, 393–414.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mettler, F. A. Extracortical connections of the primate cerebral cortex. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1947, 86, 95–117PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Meyer, A., Beck, E., & McLardy, T. Prefrontal leucotomy: A neuro-anatomical report. Brain, 1947, 70, 18–49.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Minkowski, M. Étude sur les connexions anatomiques des circon-volutions rolandiques, parietales et frontales. Schweizer Archiv fur Neurologic Neurochirurgie und Psychiatrie, 1923, 12, 71–104.Google Scholar
  60. Monakow, C. von. Experimentelle und pathologisch-anatomische Untersuchungen über die aubenregion, den Sehhugel und die Regio subthalamica, nebst Beiträgen zur Kenntnis früh erwor-bener Gross- und Kleinhirndefekte. Archiv fur Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 1895, 27, 1–128 and 386-479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Mountcastle, V. B., & Poggio, G. F. Structural organization and general physiology of thalamotelencephalic systems. In V. B. Mountcastle (Ed.), Medical physiology (Vol. 1). St. Louis: C. V. Mosby, 1974.Google Scholar
  62. Narkiewicz, O., & Brutkowski, S. The organization of projection from the thalamic mediodorsal nucleus to the prefrontal cortex of the dog. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1967, 129, 361–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Niimi, K., Niimi, M., & Okada, Y. Thalamic afferents to the limbic cortex in the cat studied with the method of retrograde axonal transport of horseradish peroxidase. Brain Research, 1978, 145, 225–238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Passingham, R. The function of prefrontal cortex in the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri). Brain Research, 1978, 145, 147–152.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pribram, K. H., Chow, K. L., & Semmes, J. Limit and organization of the cortical projection from the medial thalamic nucleus in the monkey. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1953, 98, 433–446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Radinsky, L. Evolution of the felid brain. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 1975, 11, 214–254. (a)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Radinsky, L. Primate brain evolution. American Scientist, 1975, 63, 656–663. (b)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Rose, J. E., & Woolsey, C. N.The orbitofrontal cortex and its connections with the mediodorsal nucleus in rabbit, sheep, and cat. In J. F. Fulton, C. D. Aring, & S. B. Wortis (Eds.), Research publications for research in nervous and mental disease: The frontal lobes (Vol. 27). Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins, 1948. (a)Google Scholar
  69. Rose, J. E., & Woolsey, C. N. Structure and relations of limbic cortex and anterior thalamic nuclei in rabbit and cat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1948, 89, 279–347. (b)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rose, J. E., & Woolsey, C. N. Organization of the mammalian thalamus and its relationships to the cerebral cortex. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1949, 1, 391–404.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Rose, M. Cytoarchitektonischer Atlas der Grosshirnrinde der Maus. Journal fur Psychologie und Neurologie, 1929, 40, 1–51.Google Scholar
  72. Rutishauser, F. Experimenteller Beitrag zur Stabkranzfaserung im Frontalhirn des Affen. Monatsschrift fur Psychiatrie und Neurologie, 1899, 5, 161–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sachs, E. On the structure and functional relations of the optic thalamus. Brain, 1909, 32, 7–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shipley, J. E., & Kolb, B. Neural correlates of species-typical behavior in the Syrian golden hamster. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 1977, 91, 1056–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Skeen, L. C. The organization of the medial dorsal nucleus in the tree shrew (Tupaia glis). Anatomical Record, 1974, 178, 465.Google Scholar
  76. Skeen, L. C., & Masterton, R. B. Origins of anthropoid intelligence. III. Role of prefrontal system in delayed-alternation and spatial-reversal learning in a prosimian (Galago senegalensis). Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 1976, 13, 179–195.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Stanley, W. C., & Jaynes, J. The function of the frontal cortex. Psychological Review, 1949, 56, 18–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Stanton, G. B., Cruce, W. L. R., Goldberg, M. E., & Robinson, D. L. Corticocortical and corticothalamic projections to area 7 of monkey cerebral cortex. Anatomical Record, 1977, 187, 722. (a)Google Scholar
  79. Stanton, G. B., Cruce, W. L. R., Goldberg, M. E., & Robinson, D. L. Some ipsilateral projections to areas PF and PG of the inferior parietal lobule in monkeys. Neuroscience Letters, 1977, 6, 243–250. (b)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Stephan, H. Allocortex. Handbuch der mikroskopischen Anatomic des Menschen (Vol. IV/9). Berlin: Springer, 1975.Google Scholar
  81. Tobias, T. J. Afferents to prefrontal cortex from the thalamic mediodorsal nucleus in the rhesus monkey. Brain Research, 1975, 83, 191–212.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Tobias, T. J., & Ebner, F. F. Thalamocortical projections from the mediodorsal nucleus in the Virginia opossum. Brain Research, 1973, 52, 79–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Trojanowski, J. Q. Pulvinar and other caudal thalamic afferents to superior temporal gyrus in the rhesus monkey. Abstracts of the Society for Neuroscience, 1977, 3, No. 215.Google Scholar
  84. Trojanowski, J. Q., & Jacobson, S. Areal and laminar distribution of some pulvinar cortical efferents in rhesus monkey. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1976, 169, 371–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Walker, A. E. The medial thalamic nucleus. A comparative anatomical, physiological and clinical study of the nucleus medialis dorsalis thalami. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1940, 73, 87–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Walker, A. E. The development of the concept of cerebral localization in the nineteenth century. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1957, 31, 99–121.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  87. Waller, W. H. Thalamic connections of the frontal cortex of the cat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1940, 73, 117–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Waller, W. H., & Barris, R. W. Relationships of thalamic nuclei to the cerebral cortex in the cat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1937, 67, 317–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Warren, J. M. Evolution, behavior and the prefrontal cortex. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 1972, 32, 581–593.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Warren, J. M., & Akert, K. (Eds.), The frontal granular cortex and behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.Google Scholar
  91. Warren, J. M., Warren, H. B., & Akert, K. Orbitofrontal cortical lesions and learning in cats. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1962, 118, 17–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Wundt, W. Grundzuge der physiologischen Psychologie (Vol. 1). Leipzig, Germany: W. Engelmann, 1908.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans J. Markowitsch
    • 1
  • Monika Pritzel
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KonstanzKonstanz

Personalised recommendations