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Inactivation of the prelimbic, but not infralimbic, prefrontal cortex impairs the contextual control of response conflict in rats


Professor S. Killcross or Dr J. Haddon, as above.
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One fundamental function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is to guide context-appropriate behaviour in situations of response conflict. Haddon and Killcross recently developed a task in rats which mimics some aspects of response conflict seen in human cognitive paradigms such as the Stroop task. Using this paradigm they demonstrated that large PFC lesions including the prelimbic (PL), infralimbic (IL) and anterior cingulate cortices (ACC) selectively impaired performance on incongruent trials which required the use of task-setting contextual cues to control responding in the face of ambiguous response information. The current experiment was conducted to determine whether specific PFC regions were responsible for the deficit in incongruent performance. Rats were trained on two instrumental biconditional discriminations, one auditory and one visual, in two different contexts. Following acquisition, rats were implanted with guide cannulae aimed at the PL or the IL cortices of the rat prefrontal cortex. Following retraining, rats received microinfusions of the GABAA agonist muscimol or artificial cerebrospinal fluid (aCSF) into either the PL or the IL prior to presentations of novel congruent and incongruent audiovisual compounds of the training stimuli in extinction. Results showed that temporary inactivation of the PL cortex led to a selective deficit on incongruent compound trials, but left congruent, and hence biconditional task performance intact. By contrast, IL inactivation had no effect on the accuracy of responding during either congruent or incongruent trials. These results suggest that the PL cortex is necessary for the use of task-setting contextual cues to control responding to conflicting information.