Central thalamic inactivation impairs the expression of action- and outcome-related responses of medial prefrontal cortex neurons in the rat.

Academic Article


  • The mediodorsal (MD) and adjacent intralaminar (IL) and midline nuclei provide the main thalamic input to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and are critical for associative learning and decision-making. MD neurons exhibit activity related to actions and outcomes that mirror responses of mPFC neurons in rats during dynamic delayed non-match to position (dDNMTP), a variation of DNMTP where start location is varied randomly within an open octagonal arena to avoid confounding behavioral events with spatial location. To test whether the thalamus affects the expression of these responses in mPFC, we inhibited the central thalamus unilaterally by microinjecting muscimol at doses and sites found to affect decision-making when applied bilaterally. Unilateral inactivation reduced normalized task-related responses in the ipsilateral mPFC without disrupting behavior needed to characterize event-related neuronal activity. Our results extend earlier findings that focused on delay-related activity by showing that central thalamic inactivation interferes with responses related to actions and outcomes that occur outside the period of memory delay. These findings are consistent with the broad effects of central thalamic lesions on behavioral measures of reinforcement-guided responding. Most (7/8) of the prefrontal response types affected by thalamic inactivation have also been observed in MD during dDNMTP. These results support the hypothesis that MD and IL act as transthalamic gates: monitoring prefrontal activity through corticothalamic inputs; integrating this information with signals from motivational and sensorimotor systems that converge in thalamus; and acting through thalamocortical projections to enhance expression of neuronal responses in the PFC that support adaptive goal-directed behavior.
  • Authors

  • Francoeur, Miranda J
  • Wormwood, Benjamin A
  • Gibson, Brett
  • Mair, Robert G
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • July 2019
  • Published In


  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Decision Making
  • Goals
  • Male
  • Muscimol
  • Neurons
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Spatial Memory
  • Thalamic Nuclei
  • adaptive coding
  • intralaminar nuclei
  • mediodorsal nucleus
  • prefrontal cortex/rat
  • thalamocortical networks
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 30919548
  • Start Page

  • 1779
  • End Page

  • 1798
  • Volume

  • 50
  • Issue

  • 1