Role of the anterior cingulate cortex in the control over behavior by Pavlovian conditioned stimuli in rats.
To investigate the contribution of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to stimulus-reward learning, rats with lesions of peri- and postgenual ACC were tested on a variety of Pavlovian conditioning tasks. Lesioned rats learned to approach a food alcove during a stimulus predicting food, and responded normally for conditioned reinforcement. They also exhibited normal conditioned freezing and Pavlovian-instrumental transfer, yet were impaired at autoshaping. To resolve this apparent discrepancy, a further task was developed in which approach to the food alcove was under the control of 2 stimuli, only 1 of which was followed by reward. Lesioned rats were impaired, approaching during both stimuli. It is suggested that the ACC is not critical for stimulus-reward learning per se, but is required to discriminate multiple stimuli on the basis of their association with reward.