Dissociable effects of anterior and posterior cingulate cortex lesions on the acquisition of a conditional visual discrimination: facilitation of early learning vs. impairment of late learning

Behav Brain Res. 1996 Dec;82(1):45-56. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(97)81107-2.


Two experiments investigated the effects of quinolinic acid induced lesions of the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices on the acquisition and performance of a conditional visual discrimination (CVD) task, in which rats were required to learn a rule of the type: "If lights are flashing FAST, press the right lever; if SLOW press left". In Experiment 1, animals with lesions of the anterior cingulate cortex (ANT group) demonstrated a significant enhancement in learning during the early stages of task acquisition. Conversely, animals with lesions of the posterior cingulate cortex (POS group) were impaired in learning during the later stages of acquisition. There were no significant differences between the ANT and POS groups on the performance of the task when either variable inter-trial intervals or reduced stimulus durations were imposed. In Experiment 2, the specificity of the lesion effects for processes operative during the early and late stages of learning was tested. Animals were trained to a criterion of 70% correct choices on two consecutive sessions prior to lesioning, and subsequently allowed to continue to acquire the task to the mean asymptotic performance level of 85% correct choices on two consecutive sessions. Animals of the POS group were impaired in learning during this later stage of task acquisition, thus replicating the pattern of results obtained in Experiment 1. The animals in Experiment 2 were then tested following a 30-day retention interval and during extinction (removal of sucrose from the magazine). The extinction test revealed an impairment in the ability of animals in the ANT group to omit lever responses in the absence of reinforcement. These results indicate that the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices are functionally dissociable, and suggest that they may form part of complementary, but competing, learning and memory systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / injuries*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / injuries
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Limbic System / anatomy & histology
  • Limbic System / injuries
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Time Factors