Interconnected parallel circuits between rat nucleus accumbens and thalamus revealed by retrograde transynaptic transport of pseudorabies virus

Patricio O'Donnell, Antonieta Lavín, Lynn W. Enquist, Anthony A. Grace, J. Patrick Card

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149 Scopus citations


One of the primary outputs of the nucleus accumbens is directed to the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (MD) via its projections to the ventral pallidum (VP), with the core and shell regions of the accumbens projecting to the lateral and medial aspects of the VP, respectively. In this study, the multisynaptic organization of nucleus accumbens projections was assessed using intracerebral injections of an attenuated strain of pseudorabies virus, a neurotropic α herpesvirus that replicates in synaptically linked neurons. Injection of pseudorabies virus into different regions of the MD or reticular thalamic nucleus (RTN) produced retrograde transynaptic infections that revealed multisynaptic interactions between these areas and the basal forebrain. Immunohistochemical localization of viral antigen at short postinoculation intervals confirmed that the medial MD (m-MD) receives direct projections from the medial VP, rostral RTN, and other regions previously shown to project to this region of the thalamus. At longer survival intervals, injections confined to the m-MD resulted in transynaptic infection of neurons in the accumbens shell but not in the core. Injections that also included the central segment of the MD produced retrograde infection of neurons in the lateral VP and the polymorph (pallidal) region of the olfactory tubercle (OT) and transynaptic infection of a small number of neurons in the rostral accumbens core. Injections in the lateral MO resulted in retrograde infection in the globus pallidus (GP) and in transynaptic infection in the caudate-putamen. Viral injections into the rostroventral pole of the RTN infected neurons in the medial and lateral VP and at longer postinoculation intervals, led to transynaptic infection of scattered neurons in the shell and core. Injection of virus into the intermediate RTN resulted in infection of medial VP neurons and second-order infection of neurons in the accumbens shell. Injections in the caudal RTN or the lateral MD resulted in direct retrograde labeling of cells within the GP and transynaptic infection of neurons in the caudate-putamen. These results indicate that the main output of VP neurons receiving inputs from the shell of the accumbens is heavily directed to the m-MD, whereas a small number of core neurons appear to influence the central MD via the lateral VP. Further segregation in the flow of information to the MD is apparent in the organization of VP and GP projections to subdivisions of the RTN that give rise to MD afferents. Collectively, these data provide a morphological basis for the control of the thalamocortical system by ventral striatal regions, in which parallel connections to the RTN may exert control over activity states of cortical regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2143-2167
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • globus pallidus
  • mediodorsal thalamic nucleus
  • nucleus accumbens
  • prefrontal cortex
  • pseudorabies virus
  • reticular thalamic nucleus
  • transneuronal tracing
  • ventral pallidum


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