The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been strongly implicated in control of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) response to stress. Because of the paucity of direct projections from the mPFC to the PVN, we sought to investigate possible brain regions that might act as a relay between the two during psychological stress. Bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the rat mPFC enhanced the number of Fos-immunoreactive cells seen in the PVN after exposure to the psychological stressor, air puff. Altered neuronal recruitment was seen in only one of the candidate relay populations examined, the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (vBNST). Furthermore, bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the BNST caused a significant attenuation of the PVN response to air puff. To better characterize the structural relationships between the mPFC and PVN, retrograde tracing studies were conducted examining Fos expression in cells retrogradely labeled with cholera toxin b subunit (CTb) from the PVN and the BNST. Results obtained were consistent with an important role for both the mPFC and BNST in the mpPVN CRF cell response to air puff. We suggest a set of connections whereby a direct PVN projection from the ipsilateral vBNST is involved in the mpPVN response to air puff and this may, in turn, be modulated by an indirect projection from the mPFC to the BNST.
Journal of Comparative Neurology Vol. 481, Issue 4, p. 363-376