When is the rat retrosplenial cortex required for stimulus integration?

The rodent retrosplenial cortex is known to be vital for spatial cognition, but evidence has also pointed to a role in processing nonspatial information. It has been suggested that the retrosplenial cortex may serve as a site of integration of incoming sensory information. To examine this proposal, the current set of experiments assessed the impact of excitotoxic lesions in the retrosplenial cortex on two behavioral tasks that tax animals’ ability to process multiple and overlapping environmental stimuli. In Experiment 1, rats with retrosplenial lesions acquired a negative patterning discrimination, a form of configural learning that can be solved only by learning the conjunction of cues. Subsequent transfer tests confirmed that both the lesion and control animals had solved the task by using configural representations. Furthermore, in Experiment 2, a 2nd cohort of retrosplenial lesion animals successfully acquired conditioned inhibition. Nevertheless, the same animals failed a subsequent summation test that assesses the ability to transfer what has been learned about one stimulus to another stimulus in the absence of reinforcement. Taken together, these results suggest that in the nonspatial domain, the retrosplenial cortex is not required for forming associations between multiple or overlapping environmental stimuli and, consequently, retrosplenial engagement in such processes is more selective than was previously envisaged. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)