Nucleus reuniens of the midline thalamus: link between the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus

Brain Res Bull. 2007 Mar 30;71(6):601-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2006.12.002. Epub 2007 Jan 3.


The medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus serve well recognized roles in memory processing. The hippocampus projects densely to, and exerts strong excitatory actions on, the medial prefrontal cortex. Interestingly, the medial prefrontal cortex, in rats and other species, has no direct return projections to the hippocampus, and few projections to parahippocampal structures including the entorhinal cortex. It is well established that the nucleus reuniens of the midline thalamus is the major source of thalamic afferents to the hippocampus. Since the medial prefrontal cortex also distributes to nucleus reuniens, we examined medial prefrontal connections with populations of nucleus reuniens neurons projecting to hippocampus. We used a combined anterograde and retrograde tracing procedure at the light and electron microscopic levels. Specifically, we made Phaseolus vulgaris-leuccoagglutinin (PHA-L) injections into the medial prefrontal cortex and Fluorogold injections into the hippocampus (CA1/subiculum) and examined termination patterns of anterogradely PHA-L labeled fibers on retrogradely FG labeled cells of nucleus reuniens. At the light microscopic level, we showed that fibers from the medial prefrontal cortex form multiple putative synaptic contacts with dendrites of hippocampally projecting neurons throughout the extent of nucleus reuniens. At ultrastructural level, we showed that medial prefrontal cortical fibers form asymmetric contacts predominantly with dendritic shafts of hippocampally projecting reuniens cells. These findings indicate that nucleus reuniens represents a critical link between the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. We discuss the possibility that nucleus reuniens gates the flow of information between the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus dependent upon attentive/arousal states of the organism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / ultrastructure*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / ultrastructure*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stilbamidines
  • Synaptic Membranes / physiology
  • Synaptic Membranes / ultrastructure


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Stilbamidines
  • leukoagglutinins, plants