The organization of networks within the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex of rats, monkeys and humans

Cereb Cortex. 2000 Mar;10(3):206-19. doi: 10.1093/cercor/10.3.206.


This paper reviews architectonic subdivisions and connections of the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC) in rats, monkeys and humans. Cortico-cortical connections provide the basis for recognition of 'medial' and 'orbital' networks within the OMPFC. These networks also have distinct connections with structures in other parts of the brain. The orbital network receives sensory inputs from several modalities, including olfaction, taste, visceral afferents, somatic sensation and vision, which appear to be especially related to food or eating. In contrast, the medial network provides the major cortical output to visceromotor structures in the hypothalamus and brainstem. The two networks have distinct connections with areas of the striatum and mediodorsal thalamus. In particular, projections to the nucleus accumbens and the adjacent ventromedial caudate and putamen arise predominantly from the medial network. Both networks also have extensive connections with limbic structures. Based on these and other observations, the OMPFC appears to function as a sensory-visceromotor link, especially for eating. This linkage appears to be critical for the guidance of reward-related behavior and for setting of mood. Imaging and histological observations on human brains indicate that clinical depressive disorders are associated with specific functional and cellular changes in the OMPFC, including activity and volume changes, and specific changes in the number of glial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / cytology*
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Neural Pathways
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity