The rostral medial prefrontal cortex regulates the expression of conditioned eyelid responses in behaving rabbits

J Neurosci. 2013 Mar 6;33(10):4378-86. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5560-12.2013.


We studied the contribution of the rostral mPFC (rmPFC) to the acquisition and performance of classical eyeblink conditioning in rabbits using a delay paradigm. The rmPFC was determined by its afferent projections from the medial half of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus. The rmPFC neurons were identified by their antidromic activation from the mediodorsal nucleus and/or by their firing characteristics. The rmPFC neurons increased their firing during the first conditioning sessions, but decreased it when conditioned responses (CRs) reached asymptotic values. Therefore, no significant relationships could be established between neuronal firing rates and the percentage of CRs or the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the orbicularis oculi muscle during conditioning. Electrical train stimulation of the rmPFC produced a significant inhibition of air-puff-evoked blinks and reduced the generation of CRs compared with controls. Inhibition of the rmPFC by the local injection of lidocaine produced an increase in the amplitude of evoked reflex and conditioned eyeblinks and in the percentage of CRs. The rmPFC seems to be a potent inhibitor of reflex and conditioned eyeblinks, controlling the release of newly acquired eyelid responses until advanced stages of the acquisition process--i.e., until the need for the acquired response is fully confirmed. Therefore, the rmPFC seems to act as a "flip-flop" mechanism in controlling behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology*
  • Dextrans / metabolism
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Lidocaine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Wakefulness / physiology*


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Dextrans
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • Biotin
  • Lidocaine