Association and commissural fiber systems of the olfactory cortex of the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1978 Apr 15;178(4):711-40. doi: 10.1002/cne.901780408.


The association and commissural fiber systems arising in the olfactory cortical areas caudal to the olfactory peduncle (the piriform cortex, nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract, anterior cortical nucleus of the amygdala, periamygdaloid cortex and entorhinal cortex) have been studied utilizing horseradish peroxidase as both an anterograde and a retrograde axonal tracer. In the piriform cortex two sublaminae within layer II (IIa and IIb) layer III have been found to give rise to distinctly different projections. Retrograde cell labeling experiments indicate that the association fiber projection from layer IIb is predominatnly caudally directed, while the projection from layer III is predominantly rostrally directed. Cells in layer IIa project heavily to areas both caudal and rostral to the piriform cortex. The commissural fibers from the piriform cortex are largely restricted in their origin to layer IIb of the anterior part of the piriform cortex and in their termination on the contralteral side to the posterior part of the piriform cortex and adjacent olfactory cortical areas. A projection to the olfactory bulb has also been found to arise from cells in layers IIb and III of the ipsilateral piriform cortex, but not in layer IIa. In addition to those from the piriform cortex, association projections have also been found from other olfactory cortical areas. The nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract has a heavy bilateral projection to the medial part of the anterior piriform cortex and the lateral part of the olfactory tubercle (as well as a lighter projection to the olfactory bulb); both the anterior cortical nucleus of the amygdala and the periamygdaloid cortex project ipsilaterally to several olfactory cortical areas. The entorhinal cortex has been found to project to the medial parts of the olfactory tubercle and the olfactory peduncle. The olfactory tubercle is the only olfactory cortical area from which no association fiber systems (instrinsic or extrinsic) have been found to originate. A broad topographic organization exists in the distribution of the fibers from several of the olfactory areas. This is most obvious in the anterior part of the olfactory cortex, in which fibers from the more rostral areas (the anterior olfactory nucleus and the anterior piriform cortex) terminate in regions near the lateral olfactory tract, while those from more caudal areas (the posterior piriform cortex and the entorhinal cortex) terminate in areas further removed, both laterally and medially, from the tract. Projection to olfactory areas from the hypothalamus, thalamus, diagonal band, and biogenic amine cell groups have been briefly described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Functional Laterality
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology*
  • Limbic System / cytology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Rats


  • Horseradish Peroxidase