In order to assess the behavioral role of the dopaminergic mesocortical input to the prefrontal cortex, bilateral lesions were made in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The possibility of a functional recovery by the administration of a dopamine agonist was examined. General activity, food hoarding, social-agonistic behavior, and spatial delayed alternation performance were recorded in rats with VTA lesions and in sham-operated animals. In the open field animals with VTA lesions were more active but showed less anxiety. Food hoarding was impaired. In dyadic interactions with sham-operated opponents, VTA rats were socially more active, whereas sham operates performed more keeping down and aggressive grooming. This behavioral deficit was partially recovered when apomorphine was administered prior to testing. VTA animals were impaired in the performance of a spatial delayed alternation task with an intertrial interval of 15 s, whereas no impairment was found with a 0-s intertrial interval. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
- Agonistic Behavior/physiology
- Feeding Behavior/physiology
- Frontal Lobe/metabolism
- Rats, Inbred Strains
- Stereotyped Behavior/physiology
- Tegmentum Mesencephali/metabolism