Performance of the odour span task is not impaired following inactivations of parietal cortex in rats

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Working memory (WM) is the ability to temporarily store information for use and manipulation. Working memory is thought to depend on a distributed set of higher cortical areas including the prefrontal and parietal cortex in primates while relatively little research has been conducted in rodents to elucidate the exact role of the parietal cortex (PC) in WM, particularly in relation to the construct of WM capacity. Previous work in our lab demonstrates that performance of the odour span task (OST), an olfactory incremental delayed nonmatching-to-sample task, relies on the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, the effects of inactivating the PC on the OST have not been studied. Therefore, the present experiment assessed the effects of inactivating the PC with the GABA receptor agonists muscimol/baclofen on performance of the OST. Infusions of muscimol/baclofen did not disrupt working memory performance, assessed by the mean number of odours each rat could remember before making an error on each day of testing. In contrast, performance of a positive control task, spontaneous cross-modal object recognition, was impaired by inactivating the PC. These results suggest that performance of the OST does not depend on the PC in rats. Our results are notable given past research demonstrating the importance of the parietal cortex for attentional processes and working memory in other tasks.

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