In a previous study (Herbert et al., J. Comp. Neurol. ;293:540‐580), we demonstrated that the ascending afferent projections from the medulla to the parabrachial nucleus (PB) mark out functionally specific terminal domains within the PB. In this study, we examine the organization of the forebrain afferents to the PB. The PB was found to recive afferents from the infralimbic, the lateral prefrontal, and the insular cortical areas; the dorsomedial, the ventromedial, the median preoptic, and the paraventricualr hypothalamic nuclei; the dorsal, the retrochiasmatic, and the lateral hypothalamic areas; the central nucleus of the amygdala; the substantia innominata; and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. In general, forebrain areas tend to innervate the same PB subnuclei from which they receive their input. Three major patterns of afferent termination were noted in the PB; these corresponded to the three primary sources of forebrain input to the PB: the cerebral cortex, the hypothalamus, and the basal forebrain. Hypothalamic afferents innervate predominantly rostral portions of the PB, particularly the central lateral and dorsal lateral subnuclei. The basal forebrain projection to the PB ends densely in the external lateral and waist subnuclei. Cortical afferents terminate most heavily in the caudal half of the PB, particularly in the ventral lateral and medial subnuclei. In addition, considerable topography organization was found within the individual projections. For example, tuberal lateral hypothalamic neurons project heavily to the central lateral subnucleus and lightly to the waist area; in contrast, caudal lateral hypothalamic neurons send a moderately heavy projection to both the central lateral and waist subnuclei. Our results show that the forebrain afferents of the PB are topographically organized. These topographical differences may provide a substrate for the diversity of visceral functions associated with the PB.
- autonomic nervous system
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