Neurotoxic lesions of ventrolateral prefrontal cortex impair object-in-place scene memory.
Wilson CRE., Gaffan D., Mitchell AS., Baxter MG.
Disconnection of the frontal lobe from the inferotemporal cortex produces deficits in a number of cognitive tasks that require the application of memory-dependent rules to visual stimuli. The specific regions of frontal cortex that interact with the temporal lobe in performance of these tasks remain undefined. One capacity that is impaired by frontal-temporal disconnection is rapid learning of new object-in-place scene problems, in which visual discriminations between two small typographic characters are learned in the context of different visually complex scenes. In the present study, we examined whether neurotoxic lesions of ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in one hemisphere, combined with ablation of inferior temporal cortex in the contralateral hemisphere, would impair learning of new object-in-place scene problems. Male macaque monkeys learned 10 or 20 new object-in-place problems in each daily test session. Unilateral neurotoxic lesions of ventrolateral prefrontal cortex produced by multiple injections of a mixture of ibotenate and N-methyl-D-aspartate did not affect performance. However, when disconnection from inferotemporal cortex was completed by ablating this region contralateral to the neurotoxic prefrontal lesion, new learning was substantially impaired. Sham disconnection (injecting saline instead of neurotoxin contralateral to the inferotemporal lesion) did not affect performance. These findings support two conclusions: first, that the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex is a critical area within the frontal lobe for scene memory; and second, the effects of ablations of prefrontal cortex can be confidently attributed to the loss of cell bodies within the prefrontal cortex rather than to interruption of fibres of passage through the lesioned area.