CNS neurons with links to both mood-related cortex and sympathetic nervous system
Cardiovascular changes occur during mental stress and in certain types of mood disorders. The neural basis for this phenomenon is unknown but it may be dependent on CNS neurons that provide branched projections to affective processing regions of the brain, such as the medial prefrontal cortex, and to the sympathetic outflow system. Because these putative neurons may be connected to these two target sites by chains of neurons, we performed double virus transneuronal tracing experiments and show here that a select subset of neurons in the medial preoptic nucleus (MPN), lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), and nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) are co-linked to these two sites. Neurotensin MPN, orexin-containing LHA, and catecholamine NTS neurons were the major phenotypes involved in these projections. This novel class of neurons may coordinate cardiovascular changes seen in different emotional states.