The anatomical relationships of the prefrontal cortex with limbic structures and the basal ganglia

J Psychopharmacol. 1997;11(2):99-106. doi: 10.1177/026988119701100202.


This paper briefly discusses the anatomical criteria that have been used to delineate the prefrontal cortex (PFC) from the (pre)motor cortical areas in the frontal lobe. Single anatomical criteria, such as cytoarchitecture, connectivity with the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus or a dopaminergic innervation, are insufficient to unequivocally define the PFC. It is argued that, with respect to a number of structural aspects, the prefrontal and the (pre)motor cortical areas must be viewed as a continuum, whereas a (functional) differentiation is based on the type of information that is being processed in different parts of the frontal lobe. The involvement of the PFC, like the premotor cortex, in a number of basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits may be interpreted in the same way. The paper also summarizes the organization of the inputs from midline/intralaminar thalamic nuclei, the basal amygdaloid complex and the hippocampus into the PFC-ventral striatal system. The results of tracing studies in rats indicate that these thalamic and limbic inputs both at the level of the PFC and the ventral striatum show various patterns of convergence and segregation. This leads to the conclusion that the PFC-ventral striatal system consists of a number of smaller modules.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology*
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology


  • Dopamine