Midline and intralaminar thalamic connections with the orbital and medial prefrontal networks in macaque monkeys
Although the midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei (MITN) were long believed to project “nonspecifically,” they are now known from rat studies to have restricted connections to the prefrontal cortex. This has not been studied thoroughly in primates, however, and it is not known how MITN are associated with the “orbital” and “medial” prefrontal networks. This study examined the connections of MITN in cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Experiments with retrograde and anterograde tracer injections into the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC) showed that MITN are strongly connected with the medial prefrontal network. The dorsal nuclei of the midline thalamus, including the paraventricular (Pa) and parataenial nuclei (Pt), had heavy connections with medial network areas 25, 32, and 14c in the subgenual region. Areas 13a and 12o, which are associated with both networks, were strongly connected with the Pt and the central intermedial nucleus, respectively. Otherwise, orbital network areas had weak connections with MITN. Anterograde tracer injections into the dorsal midline thalamus resulted in heavy terminal labeling in the medial prefrontal network, most notably in areas ventral to the genu of the corpus callosum (25, 32, and 14c), but also in adjacent areas (13a and 13b). Retrograde tracer injection into the dorsal midline labeled similar areas. The medial network, particularly the subgenual region, is involved in visceral and emotional control and has been implicated in mood disorders. The strong connections between the subgenual cortex and the Pa provide a pathway through which stress signals from the Pa may influence these prefrontal circuits. J. Comp. Neurol. 504:89–111, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.