Contribution of the retrosplenial cortex to temporal discrimination learning
The retrosplenial cortex (RSC) has an important role in contextual learning and memory. While the majority of experiments have focused on the physical context, the present study asked whether the RSC is involved in processing the temporal context. Rats were trained in a temporal discrimination procedure where the duration of the intertrial interval (ITI) signaled whether or not the next tone conditioned stimulus would be paired with food pellet reinforcement. When the tone was presented after a 16-min ITI it was reinforced, but when it was presented after a 4-min ITI it was not. Rats demonstrated successful discrimination in this procedure by responding more to the tone on reinforced trials than on non-reinforced trials. Pre-training electrolytic lesions of the RSC attenuated acquisition of the temporal discrimination. The results are the first to demonstrate a role for the RSC in processing temporal information and in turn extend the role of the RSC beyond the physical context to now include the temporal context.