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J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 2;23(13):5477-85.

Functional disconnection of the medial prefrontal cortex and subthalamic nucleus in attentional performance: evidence for corticosubthalamic interaction.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EB, United Kingdom.


The present study used a disconnection procedure to test whether the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN) were functional components in a common neural system that controlled continuous performance in a test of sustained and divided visual attention. Animals with disconnected lesions of the mPFC and STN in contralateral hemispheres were severely impaired in several aspects of performance, including discriminative accuracy, increased perseveration, and slowed response latencies during postoperative testing. These deficits persisted throughout the entire experimental test period. Increasing the stimulus duration alleviated the accuracy deficit but failed to improve speed of responding or reduce perseverative responses. These deficits were in marked contrast to animals with combined mPFC and STN lesions made on the ipsilateral side, which produced behavior not different from that of sham controls. Rats with unilateral lesions of either structure alone were also impaired in terms of accuracy and perseveration. These data suggest that some of the deficits observed after bilateral STN lesions (attention and perseveration) may be attributable to a disrupted corticosubthalamic projection. This study provides direct evidence that performance in tasks that require optimal attentional and executive control relies on a corticosubthalamic interaction within the neural circuitry of the basal ganglia.

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