On the basis of stimulation studies, it has been proposed that the infralimbic cortex (ILC), Brodmann area 25, may serve as an autonomic motor cortex. To explore this hypothesis, we have combined anterograde tracing with Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA‐L) and retrograde tracing with wheat germ aggutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA‐HRP) to determine the efferent projections from the ILC. Axons exit the ILC in one of three efferent pathways. The dorsal pathway ascends through layers III and V to innervate the prelimbic and anterior cingulate cortices. The lateral pathway courses through the nucleus accumbens to innervate the insular cortex, the perirhinal cortex, and parts of the piriform cortex. In addition, some fibers from the lateral pathway enter the corticospinal tract. The ventral pathway is by far the largest and innervates the thalamus (including the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus, the border zone between the paraventricular and medial dorsal nuclei, and the paratenial, reuniens, ventromedial, parafasicular, and subparafasicular nuclei), the hypothalamus (including the lateral hypothalamic and medial preoptic areas, and the suprachiasmatic, dorsomedial, and supramammillary nuclei), the amygdala (including the central, medial, and basomedial nuclei, and the periamygdaloid cortex) and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. The ventral efferent pathway also provides descending projections to autonomic cell groups of the brainstem and spinal cord including the periaqueductal gray matter, the parabrachial nucleus, the nucleus of the solitary tract, the dorsal motor vagal nucleus, the nucleus ambiguus, and the ventrolateral medulla, as well as lamina I and the intermediolateral column of the spinal cord. The ILC has extensive projections to central autonomic nuclei that may subserve a role in modulating visceral responses to emotional stimuli, such as stress.
- autonomic regulation
- medial prefrontal cortex
- nucleus of the solitary tract
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