Multiple dopamine receptor subtypes in the medial prefrontal cortex of the rat regulate set-shifting

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Feb;31(2):297-309. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300825.


Dopamine (DA) input to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), acting on D1 receptors, plays an essential role in mediating working memory functions. In comparison, less is known about the importance of distinct PFC DA receptor subtypes in mediating executive functions such as set-shifting. The present study assessed the effects of microinfusion of D2 and D4 receptor antagonists, and D1, D2, and D4 receptor agonists into the PFC on performance of a maze-based set-shifting task. In Experiment 1, rats were trained on a response discrimination task, and then on a visual-cue discrimination task requiring rats to suppress the use of the response strategy and approach the previously irrelevant cue to locate food. In Experiment 2, the order of training was reversed. Infusions of the D2 antagonist eticlopride, or the D4 agonist PD-168,077, impaired shifting from a response to a visual-cue discrimination strategy and vice versa, and caused a selective increase in perseverative errors. In contrast, infusions of the D4 antagonist L-745,870 improved set-shifting. Infusions of the D1 agonist SKF81297 or the D2 agonist quinpirole caused no reliable effect. These data, in combination with previous reports of impaired set-shifting following D1 receptor blockade, suggest that multiple receptors in the PFC are essential for set-shifting and that the mechanisms by which PFC DA mediates behavioral flexibility may be different from those underlying working memory. These findings may have important implications for developing novel treatments for cognitive deficits observed in disorders such as attentional deficit and hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Microinjections / methods
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Problem Solving / drug effects
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, Dopamine / classification*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine