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Topographic organization of connections between prefrontal cortex and mediodorsal thalamus: Evidence for a general principle of indirect thalamic pathways between directly connected cortical areas.


ABSTRACT: Our ability to act flexibly, according to goals and context, is known as cognitive control. Hierarchical levels of control, reflecting different levels of abstraction, are represented across prefrontal cortex (PFC). Although the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (MD) is extensively interconnected with PFC, the role of MD in cognitive control is unclear. Tract tracer studies in macaques, involving subsets of PFC areas, have converged on coarse MD-PFC connectivity principles; but proposed finer-grained topographic schemes, which constrain interactions between MD and PFC, disagree in many respects. To investigate a unifying topographic scheme, we performed probabilistic tractography on diffusion MRI data from eight macaque monkeys, and estimated the probable paths connecting MD with each of all 19 architectonic areas of PFC. We found a connectional topography where the orderly progression from ventromedial to anterior to posterolateral PFC was represented from anteromedial to posterolateral MD. The projection zones of posterolateral PFC areas in MD showed substantial overlap, and those of ventral and anteromedial PFC areas in MD overlapped. The exception was cingulate area 24: its projection zone overlapped with projections zones of all other PFC areas. Overall, our data suggest that nearby, functionally related, directly connected PFC areas have partially overlapping projection zones in MD, consistent with a role for MD in coordinating communication across PFC. Indeed, the organizing principle for PFC projection zones in MD appears to reflect the flow of information across the hierarchical, multi-level PFC architecture. In addition, cingulate area 24 may have privileged access to influence thalamocortical interactions involving all other PFC areas.

SUBMITTER: Phillips JM 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6506175 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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