We utilised retrograde and anterograde tracing procedures to study the origin and termination of prefrontal cortical (PFC) projections to the periaqueductal gray (PAG) in the rat. A previous study, in the primate, had demonstrated that distinct subgroups of PFC areas project to specific PAG columns. Retrograde tracing experiments revealed that projections to dorsolateral (dlPAG) and ventrolateral (vlPAG) periaqueductal gray columns arose from medial PFC, specifically prelimbic, infralimbic, and anterior cingulate cortices. Injections made in the vlPAG also labeled cells in medial, ventral, and dorsolateral orbital cortex and dorsal and posterior agranular insular cortex. Other orbital and insular regions, including lateral and ventrolateral orbital, ventral agranular insular, and dysgranular and granular insular cortex did not give rise to appreciable projections to the PAG. Anterograde tracing experiments revealed that the projections to different PAG columns arose from specific PFC areas. Projections from the caudodorsal medial PFC (caudal prelimbic and anterior cingulate cortices) terminated predominantly in dlPAG, whereas projections from the rostroventral medial PFC (rostral prelimbic cortex) innervated predominantly the vlPAG. As well, consistent with the retrograde data, projections arising from select orbital and agranular insular cortical areas terminated selectively in the vlPAG. The results indicate: (1) that rat orbital and medial PFC possesses an organisation broadly similar to that of the primate; and (2) that subdivisions within the rat orbital and medial PFC can be recognised on the basis of projections to distinct PAG columns.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.