University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Robert Mair
Relationship Between Cell Responses in the Rat Medial Prefrontal Cortex and Central Thalamus During a Spatial Memory Task
Lesions damaging central thalamus have been associated with anterograde amnesia in human clinical and animals studies involving lesions. Injury to anatomically-related areas of prefrontal cortex has more subtle effects on memory function, affecting working memory and the ability to use information stored in memory to guide behavioral responses. As a result, it is likely that together these areas play an important role in using or retrieving information held in memory, particularly over short periods of time. We are conducting a series of experiments to determine the contributions of prefrontal cortex and central thalamic nuclei of the rat play in a delayed non-matching to position task that measures spatial short-term memory. We have recorded the activity of neurons with tetrodes implanted in prefrontal cortex. Data has been collected from over 630 cells in 4 rats, including 170 with specific behavioral correlates. Many of the behavioral correlates have been related to planning (firing before responses begin), movement, reinforcement, and error detection. Relatively few have shown activity representing information during memory delays. In the future, we will compare responses of neurons in central thalamus and explore the possibility that prefrontal memory function can be enhanced by treatments manipulating central thalamic activity.