The contribution of medial prefrontal cortical regions to conditioned inhibition
Few studies have considered the process by which individuals learn to omit a response, which is an essential aspect of adaptive behavior. Several lines of evidence indicate that two regions of the medial prefrontal cortex have disparate roles in behavioral flexibility. In particular, the prelimbic cortex (PL) is thought to facilitate the generation of a strategy to inhibit a prepotent response, whereas the infralimbic cortex (IL) appears to be more important for maintaining extensively trained inhibitory behaviors. The present experiments were designed to elucidate the contributions of PL and IL to the acquisition and maintenance of Pavlovian conditioned inhibition. In Experiment 1, damage to PL before training in a compound feature negative discrimination task impaired inhibitory learning. By comparison, lesions of IL had little effect. In Experiment 2, lesions of PL or IL occurred after overtraining, and damage to IL significantly impaired subsequent performance in the task, suggesting that this region is involved in the continued expression of Pavlovian conditioned inhibition after thorough training. PL may also be involved in maintaining inhibition, as evidenced by a marginally significant lesion-induced performance deficit. These data support the notion that PL and IL have distinguishable roles in modulating inhibition, while contributing important information about the specific role for PL in acquisition of an inhibitory response and IL in performance.