Organization of neural inputs to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the rat

Margaret M. Moga, Robert Y. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

239 Scopus citations


The circadian timing of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is modulated by its neural inputs. In the present study, we examine the organization of the neural inputs to the rat SCN using both retrograde and anterograde tracing methods. After Fluoro-Gold injections into the SCN, retrogradely labeled neurons are present in a number of brain areas, including the infralimbic cortex, the lateral septum, the medial preoptic area, the subfornical organ, the paraventricular thalamus, the subparaventricular zone, the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus, the posterior hypothalamic area, the intergeniculate leaflet, the olivary pretectal nucleus, the ventral subiculum, and the median raphe nuclei. In the anterograde tracing experiments, we observe three patterns of afferent termination within the SCN that correspond to the photic/raphe, limbic/hypothalamic, and thalamic inputs. The median raphe projection to the SCN terminates densely within the ventral subdivision and sparsely within the dorsal subdivision. Similarly, areas that receive photic input, such as the retina, the intergeniculate leaflet, and the pretectal area, densely innervate the ventral SCN but provide only minor innervation of the dorsal SCN. A complementary pattern of axonal labeling, with labeled fibers concentrated in the dorsal SCN, is observed after anterograde tracer injections into the hypothalamus and into limbic areas, such as the ventral subiculum and infralimbic cortex. A third, less common pattern of labeling, exemplified by the paraventricular thalamic afferents, consists of diffuse axonal labeling throughout the SCN. Our results show that the SCN afferent connections are topographically organized. These hodological differences may reflect a functional heterogeneity within the SCN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-534
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 22 1997


  • Circadian rhythm
  • Hypothalamus
  • Intergeniculate leaflet
  • Paraventricular thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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