Studies carried out by behavioral neuroscientists using rats and rabbits have shown that the cingulate cortex is a critical substrate of instrumental learning of goal-directed behavior. Cingulate cortical neurons in these animals code associatively significant stimuli and exhibit context-specific topographic patterns that could mediate cued retrieval of context-appropriate learned behavior. These functions occur as a result of intimate interactions of hippocampal and cingulotha-lamic brain regions. Studies of cognitive neuroscien-tists concerning brain activation during cognitive task performance in human subjects have recently yielded many important findings, promising for the first time major advances in understanding complex cognitive processes of the human brain. These studies have yielded results that are fundamentally in agreement with the results of the studies on rats and rabbits. However, cognitive neuroscientists have discussed cingulate cortex as involved in attentional processes, with particular reference to response selection. They have not explicitly included cingulate cortex as an important component of the brain's memory system. However, given the findings of behavioral neuroscience and the very close neuroanatomical association of cingulate cortex with other structures (e.g., the hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex) that are acknowledged by a consensus of neuroscientists as components of the memory system, it is very likely that there will soon occur an even greater convergence of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience on a common mnemonic interpretation of cingulate cortical function.
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant NS26736 to MG.
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