Differential projections of the infralimbic and prelimbic cortex in the rat

Synapse. 2004 Jan;51(1):32-58. doi: 10.1002/syn.10279.


The medial prefrontal cortex has been associated with diverse functions including attentional processes, visceromotor activity, decision-making, goal-directed behavior, and working memory. The present report compares and contrasts projections from the infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic (PL) cortices in the rat by using the anterograde anatomical tracer, Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin. With the exception of common projections to parts of the orbitomedial prefrontal cortex, olfactory forebrain, and midline thalamus, PL and IL distribute very differently throughout the brain. Main projection sites of IL are: 1) the lateral septum, bed nucleus of stria terminalis, medial and lateral preoptic nuclei, substantia innominata, and endopiriform nuclei of the basal forebrain; 2) the medial, basomedial, central, and cortical nuclei of amygdala; 3) the dorsomedial, lateral, perifornical, posterior, and supramammillary nuclei of hypothalamus; and 4) the parabrachial and solitary nuclei of the brainstem. By contrast, PL projects at best sparingly to each of these structures. Main projection sites of PL are: the agranular insular cortex, claustrum, nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, the paraventricular, mediodorsal, and reuniens nuclei of thalamus, the capsular part of the central nucleus and the basolateral nucleus of amygdala, and the dorsal and median raphe nuclei of the brainstem. As discussed herein, the pattern of IL projections is consistent with a role for IL in the control of visceral/autonomic activity homologous to the orbitomedial prefrontal cortex of primates, whereas those of PL are consistent with a role for PL in limbic-cognitive functions homologous to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of primates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Limbic System / chemistry
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / chemistry
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / chemistry
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley