Attentional effects of lesions to the anterior cingulate cortex: how prior reinforcement influences distractibility.

Academic Article


  • Morphological changes in the anterior cingulate cortex are found in subjects with schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These changes are hypothesized to underlie the impairments these individuals show on tasks that require cognitive control. The anterior cingulate cortex has previously been shown to be active in situations involving high conflict, presentation of salient, distracting stimuli, and error processing, that is, situations that occur when a shift in attention or responding is required. However, there is some uncertainty as to what specific role the anterior cingulate cortex plays in these situations. The current study used converging evidence from two behavioral paradigms to determine the effects of excitotoxic lesions in the anterior cingulate cortex on executive control. The first assay tests reversal learning, attentional set formation and shifting. The second assesses sustained attention with and without distractors. Animals with anterior cingulate cortex lesions were impaired during reinforcement reversals, discriminations that required subjects to disregard previously relevant stimulus attributes and showed a more rapid decline in attentional ability than Sham-Lesioned subjects when maintaining sustained attention for extended periods of time. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the anterior cingulate cortex is involved in attending to stimulus attributes that currently predict reinforcement in the presence of previously relevant, salient distractors and maintaining sustained attention over prolonged time on task.
  • Authors

  • Newman, Lori A
  • McGaughy, Jill
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 2011
  • Published In


  • Animals
  • Attention
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Cues
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Executive Function
  • Gyrus Cinguli
  • Ibotenic Acid
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reversal Learning
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 360
  • End Page

  • 371
  • Volume

  • 125
  • Issue

  • 3