Projections from orbitofrontal cortex to anterior piriform cortex in the rat suggest a role in olfactory information processing

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Jul 25;488(2):224-31. doi: 10.1002/cne.20595.


The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) has been characterized as a higher-order, multimodal sensory cortex. Evidence from electrophysiological and behavioral studies in the rat has suggested that OFC plays a role in modulating olfactory guided behavior, and a significant projection to OFC arises from piriform cortex, the traditional primary olfactory cortex. To discern how OFC interacts with primary olfactory structures, the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin was injected into orbitofrontal cortical areas in adult male rats. Labeled fibers were found in the piriform cortex and olfactory bulb on the side ipsilateral to the injection. Notably, the projection to piriform cortex was predominantly from ventrolateral orbital cortex, and was not uniform; rostrally, the projection to the ventral portion of the anterior piriform cortex (APC) was substantial, while the dorsal APC was virtually free of labeled fibers. Labeled fibers were found in both the dorsal and ventral portions in more caudal regions of APC. Most labeled fibers were found in layer III, although a substantial number of fibers were observed in layers Ib and II. Labeled fibers in posterior piriform cortex also were seen after injection into orbitofrontal areas. Taken together with previous reports, these findings suggest that piriform cortex includes multiple subdivisions, which may perform separate, parallel functions in olfactory information processing. Further, these results suggest that the OFC, in addition to its putative role in encoding information about the significance of olfactory stimuli, may play a role in modulating odor response properties of neurons in piriform cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Photomicrography / methods
  • Phytohemagglutinins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Somatosensory Cortex / anatomy & histology*


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants