Parallel inputs from the mediodorsal thalamus to the prefrontal cortex in the rat

Eur J Neurosci. 2016 Aug;44(3):1972-86. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13316. Epub 2016 Jul 12.


There is a growing interest in determining the functional contribution of thalamic inputs to cortical functions. In the context of adaptive behaviours, identifying the precise role of the mediodorsal thalamus (MD) in particular remains difficult despite the large amount of experimental data available. A better understanding of the thalamocortical connectivity of this region may help to capture its functional role. To address this issue, this study focused exclusively on the specific connections from the MD to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) by means of direct comparisons of labelling produced by single and dual injections of retrograde tracers in the different subdivisions of the PFC in the rat. We show that at least three parallel and essentially separate thalamocortical pathways originate from the MD, as follows: projections to the dorsal (1) and the ventral (2) subdivisions of the mPFC follow a mediolateral topography at the thalamic level (i.e. medial thalamic neurons target the mPFC ventrally whereas lateral thalamic neurons project dorsally), whereas a considerable innervation to the OFC (3) includes thalamic cells projecting to both the lateral and the ventral OFC subdivisions. These observations provide new insight on the functions of the MD and suggest a specific focus on each of these pathways for future functional studies.

Keywords: adaptive behaviours; dorsomedial and ventromedial prefrontal cortex; orbitofrontal cortex; retrograde tracing; thalamocortical pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / physiology*