Interactions among the medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and midline thalamus in emotional and cognitive processing in the rat

Neuroscience. 2006 Sep 29;142(1):1-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.06.027. Epub 2006 Aug 2.


The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) participates in several higher order functions including selective attention, visceromotor control, decision making and goal-directed behaviors. We discuss the role of the infralimbic cortex (IL) in visceromotor control and the prelimbic cortex (PL) in cognition and their interactions in goal-directed behaviors in the rat. The PL strongly interconnects with a relatively small group of structures that, like PL, subserve cognition, and together have been designated the 'PL circuit.' These structures primarily include the hippocampus, insular cortex, nucleus accumbens, basolateral nucleus of the amygdala, the mediodorsal and reuniens nuclei of the thalamus and the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain. Lesions of each of these structures, like those of PL, produce deficits in delayed response tasks and memory. The PL (and ventral anterior cingulate cortex) (AC) of rats is ideally positioned to integrate current and past information, including its affective qualities, and act on it through its projections to the ventral striatum/ventral pallidum. We further discuss the role of nucleus reuniens of thalamus as a major interface between the mPFC and the hippocampus, and as a prominent source of afferent limbic information to the mPFC and hippocampus. We suggest that the IL of rats is functionally homologous to the orbitomedial cortex of primates and the prelimbic (and ventral AC) cortex to the lateral/dorsolateral cortex of primates, and that the IL/PL complex of rats exerts significant control over emotional and cognitive aspects of goal-directed behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Thalamus / physiology*