Decision-making is a complex cognitive process that is impaired in a number of psychiatric disorders. In the laboratory, decision-making is frequently assessed using "gambling" tasks that are designed to simulate real-life decisions in terms of uncertainty, reward and punishment. Here, we investigate whether lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) cause impairments in decision-making using a rodent gambling task (rGT). In this task, rats have to decide between 1 of 4 possible options: 2 options are considered "advantageous" and lead to greater net rewards (food pellets) than the other 2 "disadvantageous" options. Once rats attained stable levels of performance on the rGT they underwent sham or excitoxic lesions of the medial PFC and were allowed to recover for 1 week. Following recovery, rats were retrained for 5 days and then the effects of a dopamine D1-like receptor antagonist (SCH23390) or a D2-like receptor antagonist (haloperidol) on performance were assessed. Lesioned rats exhibited impaired decision-making: they made fewer advantageous choices and chose the most optimal choice less frequently than did sham-operated rats. Administration of SCH23390 (0.03 mg/kg), but not haloperidol (0.015-0.03 mg/kg) attenuated the lesion-induced decision-making deficit. These results indicate that the medial PFC is important for decision-making and that excessive signaling at D1 receptors may contribute to decision-making impairments.
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