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The role of the medial prefrontal cortex in actions and habits



The role of the medial prefrontal cortex in actions and habits



Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 27(1): 1408



As animals learn novel behavioural responses, performance is maintained by two dissociable influences. Initial responding is goal-directed and under voluntary control, but overtraining of the same response routine leads to behavioural autonomy and the development of habits that are no longer voluntary or goal-directed. Rats normally show goal-directed performance after limited instrumental training, indexed by sensitivity to changes in the value of reward. However, this sensitivity to goal value is lost with extended training, reflecting the development of S-R habit responding. This pattern of results was present in control rats. In contrast, rats with selective excitotoxic lesions restricted to the prelimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex showed no sensitivity to goal value after either limited or extended training, whereas rats with lesions restricted to the infralimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex showed the opposite pattern of deficit, a marked sensitivity to goal value after both limited and extended training. This suggests that the prelimbic region is responsible for voluntary response performance whereas the infralimbic cortex mediates the incremental ability of extended training to override this goal-directed behaviour.

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