The effect of cingulate cortex lesions on task switching and working memory.
Rushworth MFS., Hadland KA., Gaffan D., Passingham RE.
Anatomic interconnections between the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices suggest that these areas may have similar functions. Here we report the effect of anterior cingulate removal on task switching, error monitoring, and working memory. Neuroimaging studies have implicated the cingulate cortex in all these processes. Six macaques were taught task switching (TS) and delayed alternation (DA) paradigms. TS required switching between two conditional response tasks with mutually incompatible response selection rules. DA required alternation between two identically covered food-well positions. In the first set of experiments, anterior cingulate lesions did not consistently impair TS or DA performance. One animal performed worst on both TS and DA and in this animal the cingulate sulcus lesion was most complete. In the second set of experiments, we confirmed that larger anterior cingulate lesions, which included the sulcus, consistently impaired TS but only led to a mild and equivocal impairment of DA. The TS error pattern, however, did not suggest an impairment of TS per se. The consequence of a cingulate lesion is, therefore, distinct to that of a prefrontal lesion. TS error distribution analyses provided some support for a cingulate role in monitoring responses for errors and subsequent correction but the pattern of reaction time change in TS was also indicative of a failure to sustain attention to the task and the responses being made.