Cohorts of rats with excitotoxic retrosplenial cortex lesions were tested on four behavioural tasks sensitive to dysfunctions in prelimbic cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, or both. In this way the study tested whether retrosplenial cortex has nonspatial functions that reflect its anatomical interactions with these frontal cortical areas. In Experiment 1, retrosplenial cortex lesions had no apparent effect on a set-shifting digging task that taxed intradimensional and extradimensional attention, as well as reversal learning. Likewise, retrosplenial cortex lesions did not impair a strategy shift task in an automated chamber, which involved switching from visual-based to response-based discriminations and, again, included a reversal (Experiment 2). Indeed, there was evidence that the retrosplenial lesions aided the initial switch to response-based selection. No lesion deficit was found on an automated cost-benefit task that pitted size of reward against effort to achieve that reward (Experiment 3). Finally, while retrosplenial cortex lesions affected matching-to-place task in a T-maze, the profile of deficits differed from that associated with prelimbic cortex damage (Experiment 4). When the task was switched to a nonmatching design, retrosplenial cortex lesions had no apparent effect on performance. The results from the four experiments show that many frontal tasks do not require the retrosplenial cortex, highlighting the specificity of their functional interactions. The results show how retrosplenial cortex lesions spare those learning tasks in which there is no mismatch between the internal and external representations used to guide behavioural choice. In addition, these experiments further highlight the importance of the retrosplenial cortex in solving tasks with a spatial component.
Keywords: Cingulate cortex; Executive control; Extradimensional shift; Inhibition; Prelimbic cortex; Spatial memory; Strategy switch.
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