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The medial frontal cortex (MFC) is critical for cost-benefit decision-making. Generally, cognitive and reward-based behaviour in rodents is not thought to be lateralised within the brain. In this study, however, we demonstrate that rats with unilateral MFC lesions show a profound change in decision-making on an effort-based decision-making task. Furthermore, unilateral MFC lesions have a greater effect when the rat has to choose to put in more effort for a higher reward when it is on the contralateral side of space to the lesion. Importantly, this could not be explained by motor impairments as these animals did not show a turning bias in separate experiments. In contrast, rats with unilateral dopaminergic midbrain lesions did exhibit a motoric turning bias, but were unimpaired on the effort-based decision-making task. This rare example of a cognitive deficit caused by a unilateral cortical lesion in the rat brain indicates that the MFC may have a specialised and lateralised role in evaluating the costs and benefits of actions directed to specific spatial locations.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Neurosci

Publication Date





3757 - 3765


T-maze, decision, lesion, neglect, rat, Animals, Cognition Disorders, Decision Making, Dopamine, Frontal Lobe, Functional Laterality, Male, Mesencephalon, Motor Activity, Neuropsychological Tests, Oxidopamine, Photomicrography, Quinolinic Acid, Rats, Reward