Brain structure & function

The rostromedial zona incerta is involved in attentional processes while adjacent LHA responds to arousal: c-Fos and anatomical evidence.

PMID 28185007


Neurons producing melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) are located in the tuberal lateral hypothalamus (LHA) and in the rostromedial part of the zona incerta (ZI). This distribution suggests that rostromedial ZI shares some common features with the LHA. However, its functions with regard to arousal or feeding, which are often associated with the LHA, have not been thoroughly investigated. This study analyses the responses in the tuberal LHA and adjacent rostromedial ZI after experiments related to arousal, exploration, food teasing and ingestive behavior. Specific aspects of the connections of the rostromedial ZI were also studied using retrograde and anterograde tract-tracing approaches. The rostromedial ZI is activated during exploratory and teasing experiments. It receives specific projections from the frontal eye field and the anterior pole of the superior colliculus that are involved in gaze fixation and saccadic eye movements. It also receives projections from the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus involved in attention/arousal. By contrast, the tuberal LHA is activated during wakefulness and exploratory behavior and reportedly receives projections from the medial prefrontal and insular cortex, and from several brainstem structures such as the periaqueductal gray. We conclude that the rostromedial ZI is involved in attentional processes while the adjacent tuberal LHA is involved in arousal.