Coordination of actions and habits in the medial prefrontal cortex of rats

Cereb Cortex. 2003 Apr;13(4):400-8. doi: 10.1093/cercor/13.4.400.


As animals learn novel behavioural responses, performance is maintained by two dissociable influences. Initial responding is goal-directed and under voluntary control, but overtraining of the same response routine leads to behavioural autonomy and the development of habits that are no longer voluntary or goal-directed. Rats normally show goal-directed performance after limited training, indexed by sensitivity to changes in the value of reward, but this sensitivity to goal value is lost with extended training. Rats with selective lesions of the prelimbic medial prefrontal cortex showed no sensitivity to goal value after either limited or extended training, whereas rats with lesions of the infralimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex showed the opposite pattern of deficit, a marked sensitivity to goal value after both limited and extended training. This double-dissociation suggests that the prelimbic region is responsible for voluntary response performance and the infralimbic cortex mediates the incremental ability of extended training to override this goal-directed behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Habits*
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time / physiology