Specialized cortical subnetworks differentially connect frontal cortex to parahippocampal areas

J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 1;32(5):1898-913. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2810-11.2012.


How information is manipulated and segregated within local circuits in the frontal cortex remains mysterious, in part because of inadequate knowledge regarding the connectivity of diverse pyramidal cell subtypes. The frontal cortex participates in the formation and retrieval of declarative memories through projections to the perirhinal cortex, and in procedural learning through projections to the striatum/pontine nuclei. In rat frontal cortex, we identified two pyramidal cell subtypes selectively projecting to distinct subregions of perirhinal cortex (PRC). PRC-projecting cells in upper layer 2/3 (L2/3) of the frontal cortex projected to perirhinal area 35, while neurons in L5 innervated perirhinal area 36. L2/3 PRC-projecting cells partially overlapped with those projecting to the basolateral amygdala. L5 PRC-projecting cells partially overlapped with crossed corticostriatal cells, but were distinct from neighboring corticothalamic (CTh)/corticopontine cells. L5 PRC-projecting and CTh cells were different in their electrophysiological properties and dendritic/axonal morphologies. Within the frontal cortex, L2/3 PRC-projecting cells innervated L5 PRC-projecting and CTh cells with similar probabilities, but received feedback excitation only from PRC-projecting cells. These data suggest that specific neuron subtypes in different cortical layers are reciprocally excited via interlaminar loops. Thus, two interacting output channels send information from the frontal cortex to different hierarchical stages of the parahippocampal network, areas 35 and 36, with additional collaterals selectively targeting the amygdala or basal ganglia, respectively. Combined with the hierarchical connectivity of PRC-projecting and CTh cells, these observations demonstrate an exquisite diversification of frontal projection neurons selectively connected according to their participation in distinct memory subsystems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar