Neonatal Perirhinal Cortex Lesions Impair Monkeys’ Ability to Modulate Their Emotional Responses

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The medial temporal lobe (MTL) is a collection of brain regions best known for their role in perception, memory, and emotional behavior. Within the MTL, the perirhinal cortex (PRh) plays a critical role in perceptual representation and recognition memory, although its contribution to emotional regulation is still debated. Here, rhesus monkeys with neonatal perirhinal lesions (Neo-PRh) and controls (Neo-C) were tested on the Human Intruder (HI) task at 2 months, 4.5 months, and 5 years of age to assess the role of the PRh in the development of emotional behaviors. The HI task presents a tiered social threat to which typically developing animals modulate their emotional responses according to the level of threat. Unlike animals with neonatal amygdala or hippocampal lesions, Neo-PRh animals were not broadly hyper- or hyporesponsive to the threat presented by the HI task as compared with controls. Instead, Neo-PRh animals displayed an impaired ability to modulate their freezing and anxiety-like behavioral responses according to the varying levels of threat. Impaired transmission of perceptual representation generated by the PRh to the amygdala and hippocampus may explain the animals’ inability to appropriately assess and react to complex social stimuli. Neo-PRh animals also displayed fewer hostile behaviors in infancy and more coo vocalizations in adulthood. Neither stress-reactive nor basal cortisol levels were affected by the Neo-PRh lesions. Overall, these results suggest that the PRh is indirectly involved in the expression of emotional behavior and that effects of Neo-PRh lesions are dissociable from neonatal lesions to other temporal lobe structures.

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