Anatomical, stimulation, and lesion data have suggested a homology between the rat frontal orienting fields (FOF) (centered at +2 AP, ±1.3 ML mm from Bregma) and primate frontal cortices such as the frontal or supplementary eye fields. We investigated the functional role of the FOF using rats trained to perform a memory-guided orienting task, in which there was a delay period between the end of a sensory stimulus instructing orienting direction and the time of the allowed motor response. Unilateral inactivation of the FOF resulted in impaired contralateral responses. Extracellular recordings of single units revealed that 37% of FOF neurons had delay period firing rates that predicted the direction of the rats' later orienting motion. Our data provide the first electrophysiological and pharmacological evidence supporting the existence in the rat, as in the primate, of a frontal cortical area involved in the preparation and/or planning of orienting responses.
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