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Neurotox Res. 2008 Oct;14(2-3):249-62. doi: 10.1007/BF03033814.

Comparing the prefrontal cortex of rats and primates: insights from electrophysiology.

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Department of Psychiatry and the Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T2B5.


There is a long-standing debate about whether rats have what could be considered a prefrontal cortex (PFC) and, if they do, what its primate homologue is. Anatomical evidence supports the view that the rat medial PFC is related to both the primate anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the dorsolateral PFC. Functionally the primate and human ACC are believed to be involved in the monitoring of actions and outcomes to guide decisions especially in challenging situations where cognitive conflict and errors arise. In contrast, the dorsolateral PFC is responsible for the maintenance and manipulation of goal-related items in memory in the service of planning, problem solving, and predicting forthcoming events. Recent multiple single-unit recording studies in rats have reported strong correlates of motor planning, movement and reward anticipation analogous to what has been observed in the primate ACC. There is also emerging evidence that rats may partly encode information over delays using body posture or variations in running path as embodied strategies, and that these are the aspects tracked by medial PFC neurons. The primate PFC may have elaborated on these rudimentary functions by carrying them over to more abstract levels of mental representation, more independent from somatic or other external mnemonic cues, and allowing manipulation of mental contents outside specific task contexts. Therefore, from an electrophysiological and computational perspective, the rat medial PFC seems to combine elements of the primate ACC and dorsolateral PFC at a rudimentary level. In primates, these functions may have formed the building blocks required for abstract rule encoding during the expansion of the cortex dorsolaterally.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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