Sulpiride alleviates the attentional impairments of rats with medial prefrontal cortex lesions

Filippo Passetti, Liat Levita, Trevor W Robbins

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Recent studies have shown that medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) lesions impair performance on a number of rodent tests of attention. Although this evidence clearly suggests a role for the rat mPFC in attentional functions, it is unclear whether subcortical changes associated with mPFC lesions might also be relevant to the neuropsychological deficits observed. Given the ample evidence suggesting increased dopaminergic mechanisms in the basal ganglia following mPFC lesions, we investigated the effects of dopamine receptor agonists and antagonists on the attentional deficits associated with mPFC lesions. Rats trained on a five-choice reaction time task received either complete mPFC lesions or lesions restricted to its ventral subregions, the prelimbic and infralimbic cortices (PRL-IL). Compared with sham-operated rats, animals in both the lesioned groups were impaired at responding correctly to the visual targets, although this deficit was more marked in mPFC-lesioned rats. In addition, both lesions were associated with increased perseverative responding. The accuracy deficits of rats with mPFC lesions were alleviated by systemic administration of the dopamine D2 receptor antagonist sulpiride. In contrast, rats with PRL-IL damage were not affected and control rats were impaired by sulpiride. Administration of either the dopamine D1 receptor antagonist SCH 23390 or of pre-synaptic doses of apomorphine had similar, albeit non-significant effects. Higher doses of any of these drugs non-specifically impaired performance. These results extend previous findings of attentional impairments in rats with mPFC lesions and are compatible with recent hypotheses concerning the role of dopaminergic dysregulation in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Animals
  • Apomorphine
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Attention
  • Benzazepines
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Sulpiride

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