The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex have both been implicated in various aspects of the acquisition, retention and performance of delayed matching to position (DMTP) tasks in the rat, although their precise respective contributions remain unclear. In the present study, rats were trained preoperatively on DMTP before receiving excitotoxic bilateral lesions of either the entire hippocampus or the medial prefrontal cortex. Rats with lesions of the prefrontal cortex exhibited a significant delay-dependent impairment on retention of the DMTP task, whereas hippocampal lesions were without effect. Rats were also exposed to a switch in the contingencies to a 'non-matching' rule, as an analogue of switching between decision rules in the human Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, in which human patients with prefrontal damage are impaired. Both lesion groups acquired the new contingency at control levels, providing no evidence towards a role for either of these areas in this type of rule-switching. The same rats were also assessed in a spatial reference memory task in the water maze, which revealed an impairment in escape latencies and path length that was specific to the hippocampal lesions. The results corroborate previous evidence that the hippocampus is not necessary for at least some aspects of working memory performance in the DMTP task, whereas the delay-dependent deficit in the prefrontal lesion group support this task as a potentially powerful tool for assessing the cognitive changes associated with frontal damage and repair.