Medial prefrontal cortex lesions abolish contextual control of competing responses

J Exp Anal Behav. 2005 Nov;84(3):485-504. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2005.81-04.


There is much debate as to the extent and nature of functional specialization within the different subregions of the prefrontal cortex. The current study was undertaken to investigate the effect of damage to medial prefrontal cortex subregions in the rat. Rats were trained on two biconditional discrimination tasks, one auditory and one visual, in two different contexts. At test, they received presentations of audiovisual compounds of these training stimuli in extinction. These compounds had dictated either the same (congruent trials) or different (incongruent trials) responses during training. In sham-operated controls, contextual cues came to control responding to conflicting information provided by incongruent stimulus compounds. Experiment 1 demonstrated that this contextual control of responding was not evident in individual rats with large amounts of damage that included the prelimbic and cingulate subregions of the prefrontal cortex. Experiment 2 further dissociated the result of Experiment 1, demonstrating that lesions specific to the anterior cingulate cortex were sufficient to produce a deficit early on during presentation of an incongruent stimulus compound but that performance was unimpaired as presentation progressed. This early deficit suggests a role for the anterior cingulate cortex in the detection of response conflict, and for the medial prefrontal cortex in the contextual control of competing responses, providing evidence for functional specialization within the rat prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*