Escitalopram restores reversal learning impairments in rats with lesions of orbital frontal cortex

David S. Tait, Ellen E. Bowman, Silke Miller, Mary Dovlatyan, Connie Sanchez, Verity J. Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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The term ‘cognitive structures’ is used to describe the fact that mental models underlie thinking, reasoning and representing. Cognitive structures generally improve the efficiency of information processing by providing a situational framework within which there are parameters governing the nature and timing of information and appropriate responses can be anticipated. Unanticipated events that violate the parameters of the cognitive structure require the cognitive model to be updated, but this comes at an efficiency cost. In reversal learning a response that had been reinforced is no longer reinforced, while an alternative is now reinforced, having previously not been (A+/B− becomes A−/B+). Unanticipated changes of contingencies require that cognitive structures are updated. In this study, we examined the effect of lesions of the orbital frontal cortex (OFC) and the effects of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), escitalopram, on discrimination and reversal learning. Escitalopram was without effect in intact rats. Rats with OFC lesions had selective impairment of reversal learning, which was ameliorated by escitalopram. We conclude that reversal learning in OFC-lesioned rats is an easily administered and sensitive test that can detect effects of serotonergic modulation on cognitive structures that are involved in behavioural flexibility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConcepts, frames and cascades in semantics, cognition and ontology
EditorsSebastian Löbner, Thomas Gamerschlag, Tobias Kalenscher, Markus Schrenk, Henk Zeevat
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030502003
ISBN (Print)9783030501990, 9783030502027
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2021

Publication series

NameLanguage, cognition and mind
ISSN (Print)2364-4109
ISSN (Electronic)2364-4117


  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Cognitive structures
  • Free-will
  • Goals
  • Introspection
  • Rats
  • Reversal learning


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