Prefrontal cortical mechanisms underlying delayed alternation in mice.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) has been implicated in the maintenance of task-relevant information during goal-directed behavior. Using a combination of lesions, local inactivation, and optogenetics, we investigated the functional role of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in mice with a novel operant delayed alternation task. Task difficulty was manipulated by changing the duration of the delay between two sequential actions. In experiment 1, we showed that excitotoxic lesions of the mPFC impaired acquisition of delayed alternation with long delays (16 s), whereas lesions of the dorsal hippocampus and ventral striatum, areas connected with the PFC, did not produce any deficits. Lesions of dorsal hippocampus, however, significantly impaired reversal learning when the rule was changed from alternation to repetition. In experiment 2, we showed that local infusions of muscimol (an agonist of the GABA(A) receptor) into mPFC impaired performance even when the animal was well trained, suggesting that the mPFC is critical not only for acquisition but also for successful performance. In experiment 3, to examine the mechanisms underlying the role of GABAergic inhibition, we used Cre-inducible Channelrhodopsin-2 to activate parvalbumin (PV)-expressing GABAergic interneurons in the mPFC of PV-Cre transgenic mice as they performed the task. Using whole cell patch-clamp recording, we demonstrated that activation of PV-expressing interneurons in vitro with blue light in brain slices reliably produced spiking and inhibited nearby pyramidal projection neurons. With similar stimulation parameters, in vivo stimulation significantly impaired delayed alternation performance. Together these results demonstrate a critical role for the mPFC in the acquisition and performance of the delayed alternation task.
Rossi, MA; Hayrapetyan, VY; Maimon, B; Mak, K; Je, HS; Yin, HH
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