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J Comp Neurol. 2014 Sep 1;522(13):3052-74. doi: 10.1002/cne.23566.

Species-specific differences in the medial prefrontal projections to the pons between rat and rabbit.

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Center for Learning & Memory, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, 78712.


The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of both rats and rabbits has been shown to support trace eyeblink conditioning, presumably by providing an input to the cerebellum via the pons that bridges the temporal gap between conditioning stimuli. The pons of rats and rabbits, however, shows divergence in gross anatomical organization, leaving open the question of whether the topography of prefrontal inputs to the pons is similar in rats and rabbits. To investigate this question, we injected anterograde tracer into the mPFC of rats and rabbits to visualize and map in 3D the distribution of labeled terminals in the pons. Effective mPFC injections showed labeled axons in the ipsilateral descending pyramidal tract in both species. In rats, discrete clusters of densely labeled terminals were observed primarily in the rostromedial pons. Clusters of labeled terminals were also observed contralateral to mPFC injection sites in rats, appearing as a less dense "mirror-image" of ipsilateral labeling. In rabbits, mPFC labeled corticopontine terminals were absent in the rostral pons, and instead were restricted to the intermediate pons. The densest terminal fields were typically observed in association with the ipsilateral pyramidal tract as it descended ventromedially through the rabbit pons. No contralateral terminal labeling was observed for any injections made in the rabbit mPFC. The results suggest the possibility that mPFC inputs to the pons may be integrated with different sources of cortical inputs between rats and rabbits. The resulting implications for mPFC or pons manipulations for studies of trace eyeblink in each species are discussed.


PFC; anterograde tracer; corticocerebellar; corticopontine; pontine nuclei

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