Differential projections from subfields in the lateral preoptic area to the lateral habenular complex of the rat

Alexander B. Kowski, Stefanie Geisler, Michael Krauss, Ruediger W. Veh

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The lateral habenular complex (LHb) constitutes an important link in the dorsal diencephalic conduction system conveying information from limbic forebrain structures to regulatory midbrain nuclei. In line with the considerable number of biological functions in which the habenula is thought to be involved, a complex subnuclear organization of the LHb has been suggested. However, the precise connectivity of habenular subnuclei remains to be identified. We hypothesize that axons from the lateral preoptic area (LPOA) project to distinct subnuclei of the LHb. As a result of an unexpected heterogeneity within the LPOA, we first examined its subregional morphology. Based on the analysis of several coronal series of sections, seven subfields were identified within the LPOA. Retrograde tracing experiments revealed that neurons projecting to the LHb were concentrated in the dorsal, ventral, and ventromedial subfields of the rostral LPOA and in the caudal LPOA. Anterograde tracing experiments confirmed that all LPOA subfields containing retrogradely labelled cells project to the LHb. Neurons in rostral subfields of the LPOA target predominantly the lateral area of the LHb, whereas caudal LPOA fibers innervate the medial LHb. Afferent labelling is most prominent within the magnocellular subnucleus in the LHbM, and only few fibers can be observed in the parvocellular subnucleus of the LHbM. The superior subnucleus of the LHbM and the oval subnucleus of the LHbL do not receive any fibers from the LPOA at all. This is the first comprehensive study so far to show that projections from LPOA subfields individually target subnuclei in the lateral habenular complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1465-1478
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Afferents
  • Connections
  • Cytoarchitecture
  • Efferents
  • Habenula
  • Hypothalamus


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