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    Working memory (WM), the capacity for short-term storage of small quantities of information for immediate use, is thought to depend on activity within the prefrontal cortex. Recent evidence indicates that the prefrontal neuronal activity supporting WM is driven by thalamocortical connections arising in mediodorsal thalamus (mdThal). However, the role of these connections has not been studied using olfactory stimuli leaving open the question of whether this circuit extends to all sensory modalities. Additionally, manipulations of the mdThal in olfactory memory tasks have yielded mixed results. In the present experiment, we investigated the role of connections between the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and mdThal in the odor span task (OST) using a pharmacological contralateral disconnection technique. Inactivation of either the mPFC or mdThal alone both significantly impaired memory performance in the OST, replicating previous findings with the mPFC and confirming that the mdThal plays an essential role in intact OST performance. Contralateral disconnection of the two structures impaired OST performance in support of the idea that the OST relies on mPFC-mdThal connections, but ipsilateral control infusions also impaired performance, complicating this interpretation. We also performed a detailed analysis of rats' errors and foraging behavior and found a dissociation between mPFC and mdThal inactivation conditions. Inactivation of the mdThal and mPFC caused a significant reduction in the number of approaches rats made per odor, whereas only mdThal inactivation or mPFC-mdThal disconnection caused significant increases in choice latency. Our results confirm that the mdThal is necessary for performance of the OST and that it may critically interact with the mPFC to mediate OST performance. Additionally, we have provided evidence that the mPFC and mdThal play dissociable roles in mediating foraging behavior. © 2020 Scott et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


    Gavin A Scott, Max C Liu, Nimra B Tahir, Nadine K Zabder, Yuanyi Song, Quentin Greba, John G Howland. Roles of the medial prefrontal cortex, mediodorsal thalamus, and their combined circuit for performance of the odor span task in rats: analysis of memory capacity and foraging behavior. Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). 2020 Feb;27(2):67-77

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    PMID: 31949038

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