Cytotoxic lesion of the medial prefrontal cortex abolishes the partial reinforcement extinction effect, attenuates prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle reflex and induces transient hyperlocomotion, while sparing spontaneous object recognition memory in the rat

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The partial reinforcement extinction effect refers to the increase in resistance to extinction of an operant response acquired under partial reinforcement relative to that acquired under continuous reinforcement. Prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response refers to the reduction in startle reactivity towards an intense acoustic pulse stimulus when it is shortly preceded by a weak prepulse stimulus. These two behavioural phenomena appear to be related to different forms of attentional processes. While the prepulse inhibition effect reflects an inherent early attentional gating mechanism, the partial reinforcement extinction effect is believed to involve the development of acquired inattention, i.e. the latter requires the animals to learn about what to and what not to attend. Impairments in prepulse inhibition and the partial reinforcement extinction effect have been independently linked to the neuropsychology of attentional dysfunctions seen in schizophrenia. The proposed neural substrates underlying these behaviourial phenomena also appear to overlap considerably: both focus on the nucleus accumbens and emphasize the functional importance of its limbic afferents, including that originating from the medial prefrontal cortex, on accumbal output/activity. The present study demonstrated that cytotoxic medial prefrontal cortex lesions which typically damaged the prelimbic, the infralimbic and the dorsal anterior cingulate areas could lead to the abolition of the partial reinforcement extinction effect and the attenuation of prepulse inhibition. The lesions also resulted in a transient elevation of spontaneous locomotor activity. In contrast, the same lesions spared performance in a spontaneous object recognition memory test, in which the lesioned animals displayed normal preference for a novel object when the novel object was presented in conjunction with a familiar object seen 10 min earlier within an open field arena. The present results lend support to the hypothesis that medial prefrontal cortex dysfunction might be related to some forms of attentional abnormality central to the symptomatology of schizophrenia. Relevance of the present findings in relation to the neural substrates underlying the partial reinforcement extinction effect and prepulse inhibition is further discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-689
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Frontal cortex
  • Locomotor activity
  • Reward
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sensorimotor gating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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