The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) receives afferents from the brainstem and has been thought to relay arousal related information to specific limbic forebrain areas, including the nucleus accumbens. More recent anatomical observations suggest that the PVT also receives afferents from various hypothalamic nuclei. The present anatomical experiments investigated the innervation of the PVT by fibers immunoreactive for orexin and cocaine and amphetamine related transcript (CART), two feeding-related peptides highly concentrated in the hypothalamus. Emphasis was placed on identifying the relationship between these neuropeptides and PVT neurons projecting to the shell of the nucleus accumbens (NacSh). Infusion of a retrograde tracer into the NacSh labeled numerous cells of the midline and intralaminar thalamus, most of which were restricted to the PVT. The retrograde tracer, orexin fibers, and CART fibers were immunopositive throughout the entire PVT whereas no overlap between signals was evident within adjacent thalamic regions. High-magnification light and confocal microscopy showed that both orexin and CART fibers made frequent contact with retrogradely labeled neurons throughout the anteroposterior PVT. Furthermore, single PVT cells retrogradely labeled from the NacSh were apposed by both orexin and CART fibers. The present experiments provide the first evidence suggesting a role for the PVT as a relay of hypothalamic activity to the nucleus accumbens. The PVT may function to link visceral arousal signals with limbic regions involved in behavioral responses.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.