No previous report in any species has examined comprehensively the projections of the median raphe (MR) nucleus with modern tracing techniques. The present report represents an in depth analysis of the projections of MR by use of the anterograde anatomical tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin. MR fibers descend along the midline within the brainstem and mainly ascend within the medial forebrain bundle in the forebrain. MR fibers distribute densely to the following brainstem/forebrain sites: caudal raphe nuclei, laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, dorsal raphe nucleus, interpeduncular nucleus, medial mammillary body, supramammillary nucleus, posterior nucleus and perifornical region of the hypothalamus, midline and intralaminar nuclei of thalamus, dopamine-containing cell region of medial zona incerta, lateral habenula, horizontal and vertical limbs of the diagonal band nuclei, medial septum, and hippocampal formation. Virtually all of these structures lie on or close to the midline, indicating that the MR represents a midline/para-midline system of projections. Overall, MR projections to the cortex are light. MR projects moderately to the perirhinal, entorhinal and frontal cortices, but sparingly to remaining regions of cortex. A comparison of MR with dorsal raphe (DR) projections (Vertes RP. 1991. J Comp Neurol 313:643-668) shows that these two major serotonin-containing cell groups of the midbrain distribute to essentially nonoverlapping regions of the forebrain; that is, the MR and DR project to complementary sites in the forebrain. A direct role for the MR in the desynchronization of the electroencephalographic activity of the hippocampus and its possible consequences for memory-associated functions of the hippocampus is discussed.
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