The frontal cortex of the rat and visual attentional performance: dissociable functions of distinct medial prefrontal subregions

Cereb Cortex. 2002 Dec;12(12):1254-68. doi: 10.1093/cercor/12.12.1254.


A previous study using a rodent five-choice test of attention found poor choice accuracy and increased perseverative responding following medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) lesions. As this rat cortical area includes at least two anatomically distinguishable subregions, the present study investigated their specific contributions to performance of this task. Rats were trained on the five-choice task prior to receiving excitotoxic lesions or sham surgery. In the first experiment, lesions of the dorsal mPFC (Zilles's Cg1) resulted in poor accuracy, but no changes in perseverative responding. Introducing variable delays for stimulus presentation abolished these accuracy deficits, suggesting that Cg1-lesioned rats were impaired at using temporal cues to guide performance. In the second experiment, lesions of the ventral mPFC increased perseverative responding, but had only short-lasting effects on accuracy. Rats with complete mPFC lesions had both choice accuracy impairments and increased perseverative responding. Additional evidence of the functional dissociation of dorsal and ventral mPFC came from the analysis of the spatial and temporal distribution of the correct and incorrect responses. Only rats with ventral mPFC lesions showed delay-dependent deficits and bias towards a location that had recently been associated with reward. Taken together, these results suggest dissociable 'executive' functions of mPFC subregions. Circuits centred on Cg1 are critical for the temporal organization of behaviour, while networks involving the ventral mPFC are important for maintaining behavioural flexibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Male
  • Quinolinic Acid / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Quinolinic Acid