Unilateral medial frontal cortex lesions cause a cognitive decision-making deficit in rats.
Croxson PL., Walton ME., Boorman ED., Rushworth MF., Bannerman DM.
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.