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Excitotoxic lesions of the infralimbic, but not prelimbic cortex facilitate reversal of appetitive discriminative context conditioning: the role of the infralimbic cortex in context generalization

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00063

Keywords: spatial context learning, reversal learning, medial prefrontal cortex, prelimbic cortex, infralimbic cortex, conditioned place preference, context generalization

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The prelimbic and infralimbic regions of the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are important components of the limbic cortico-striatal circuit, receiving converging projections from the hippocampus (HPC) and amygdala. Mounting evidence points to these regions having opposing roles in the regulation of the expression of contextual fear and context-induced cocaine-seeking. To investigate this functional differentiation in motivated behavior further, this study employed a novel radial maze task previously shown to be dependent on the integrity of the hippocampus and its functional connection to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell, to investigate the effects of selective excitotoxic lesions of the prelimbic (PL) and infralimbic (IL) upon the spatial contextual control over reward learning. To this end, rats were trained to develop discriminative responding towards a reward-associated discrete cue presented in three out of six spatial locations (3 arms out of 6 radial maze arms), and to avoid the same discrete cue presented in the other three spatial locations. Once acquired, the reward contingencies of the spatial locations were reversed, such that responding to the cue presented in a previously rewarded location was no longer rewarded. Furthermore, the acquisition of spatial learning was probed separately using conditioned place preference (CPP) and the monitoring of arm selection at the beginning of each training session. Lesions of the PL transiently attenuated the acquisition of the initial cue approach training and spatial learning, while leaving reversal learning intact. In contrast, IL lesions led to a significantly superior performance of spatial context-dependent discriminative cue approach and reversal learning, in the absence of a significant preference for the new reward-associated spatial locations. These results indicate that the PL and IL have functionally dissociative, and potentially opposite roles in the regulation of spatial contextual control over appetitive learning.


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