This article reviews the anatomical connections of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) and discusses some of the connections by which the PVT could influence behavior. The PVT receives neurochemically diverse projections from the brainstem and hypothalamus with an especially strong innervation from peptide producing neurons. Anatomical evidence is also presented which suggests that the PVT relays information from neurons involved in visceral or homeostatic functions. In turn, the PVT is a major source of projections to the nucleus accumbens, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the central nucleus of the amygdala as well as the cortical areas associated with these subcortical regions. The PVT is activated by conditions and cues that produce states of arousal including those with appetitive or aversive emotional valences. The paper focuses on the potential contribution of the PVT to circadian rhythms, fear, anxiety, food intake and drug-seeking. The information in this paper highlights the potential importance of the PVT as being a component of the brain circuits that regulate reward and defensive behavior with the hope of generating more research in this relatively understudied region of the brain.
Keywords: Amygdala; Anxiety; Arousal; Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; Circadian rhythms; Drug addiction; Emotions; Fear; Food intake; Motivation; Nucleus accumbens; Paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus; Prefrontal cortex.
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