Jordan Allan Piper, Giuseppe Musumeci, Alessandro Castorina

The Neuroanatomy of the Habenular Complex and Its Role in the Regulation of Affective Behaviors

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The habenular complex is a diencephalic structure divided into the medial and lateral divisions that lie within the epithalamus of most vertebrates. This brain structure, whose activities are mainly regulated via inputs/outputs from and to the stria medullaris and the fasciculus retroflexus, plays a significant role in the modulation of anti-reward behaviors in both the rodent and human brain. Such anti-reward circuits are regulated by dopaminergic and serotonergic projections with several other subcortical and cortical regions; therefore, it is plausible that impairment to this key subcortical structure or its connections contributes to the pathogenesis of affective disorders. Current literature reveals the existence of structural changes in the habenula complex in individuals afflicted by such disorders; however, there is a need for more comprehensive investigations to elucidate the underlying neuroanatomical connections that underpin disease development. In this review article, we aim to provide a comprehensive view of the neuroanatomical differences between the rodent and human habenular complex, the main circuitries, and provide an update on the emerging roles of this understudied subcortical structure in the control of affective behaviors, with special emphasis to morbid conditions of the affective sphere.

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