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J Chem Neuroanat. 2013 Mar;48-49:29-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2012.12.006. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

Pattern of distribution of serotonergic fibers to the orbitomedial and insular cortex in the rat.

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Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431, United States.


As is well recognized, serotonergic (5-HT) fibers distribute widely throughout the brain, including the cerebral cortex. Although some early reports described the 5-HT innervation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in rats, the focus was on sensorimotor regions and not on the 'limbic' PFC - or on the medial, orbital and insular cortices. In addition, no reports have described the distribution of 5-HT fibers to PFC in rats using antisera to the serotonin transporter (SERT). Using immunostaining for SERT, we examined the pattern of distribution of 5-HT fibers to the medial, orbital and insular cortices in the rat. We show that 5-HT fibers distribute massively throughout all divisions of the PFC, with distinct laminar variations. Specifically, 5-HT fibers were densely concentrated in superficial (layer 1) and deep (layers 5/6) of the PFC but less heavily so in intermediate layers (layers 2/3). This pattern was most pronounced in the orbital cortex, particularly in the ventral and ventrolateral orbital cortices. With the emergence of granular divisions of the insular cortex, the granular cell layer (layer 4) was readily identifiable by a dense band of labeling confined to it, separating layer 4 from less heavily labeled superficial and deep layers. The pattern of 5-HT innervation of medial, orbital and insular cortices significantly differed from that of sensorimotor regions of the PFC. Serotonergic labeling was much denser overall in limbic compared to non-limbic regions of the PFC, as was striking demonstrated by the generally weaker labeling in layers 1-3 of the primary sensory and motor cortices. The massive serotonergic innervation of the medial, orbital and insular divisions of the PFC likely contributes substantially to well established serotonergic effects on affective and cognitive functions, including a key role in many neurological and psychiatric diseases.

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