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, 96 (3), 417-31

An Analysis of Rat Prefrontal Cortex in Mediating Executive Function


An Analysis of Rat Prefrontal Cortex in Mediating Executive Function

Raymond P Kesner et al. Neurobiol Learn Mem.


While it is acknowledged that species specific differences are an implicit condition of comparative studies, rodent models of prefrontal function serve a significant role in the acquisition of converging evidence on prefrontal function across levels of analysis and research techniques. The purpose of the present review is to examine whether the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in rats supports a variety of processes associated with executive function including working memory, temporal processing, planning (prospective coding), flexibility, rule learning, and decision making. Therefore, in this review we examined changes associated with working memory processes for spatial locations, visual objects, odors, tastes, and response domains or attributes, temporal processes including temporal order, sequence learning, prospective coding, behavioral flexibility associated with reversal learning and set shifting, paired associate learning, and decision making based on effort, time discounting, and uncertainty following damage to the PFC in rats. In addition, potential parallel processes of executive function in monkeys and humans based on several theories of subregional differentiation within the PFC will be presented. Specifically, theories based on domain or attribute specificity (Goldman-Rakic, 1996), level of processing (Petrides, 1996), rule learning based on complexity (Wise, Murray, & Gerfen, 1996), executive functions based on connectivity with other brain regions associated with top-down control (Miller & Cohen, 2001), are presented and applied to PFC function in rats with the aim of understanding subregional specificity in the rat PFC. The data suggest that there is subregional specificity within the PFC of rats, monkey and humans and there are parallel cognitive functions of the different subregions of the PFC in rats, monkeys and humans.

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