The evolutionarily conserved lateral habenula (LHb) enables dynamic responses to continually changing contexts and environmental conditions. A model is proposed to account for greater mnemonic and contextual control over LHb-mediated response flexibility as vertebrate brains became more complex. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) provides instructions for context-specific responses to LHb, which assesses the extent to which this response information matches the motivation or internal state of the individual. LHb output either maintains a prior response (match) or leads to alternative responses (mismatch). It may also maintain current spatial and temporal processing in hippocampus (match), or alter such activity to reflect updated trajectory and sequenced information (mismatch). A response flexibility function of the LHb is consistent with poor behavioral control following its disruption (e.g., in depression).
Keywords: adaptive behavior; cognitive flexibility; lateral habenula.
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