, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 275-290

Cortex, striatum and cerebellum: control of serial order in a grooming sequence

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Summary

Rats emit grooming actions in sequences that follow characteristic patterns of serial order. One of these patterns, a syntactic chain, has a particularly stereotyped order that recurs spontaneously during grooming thousands of times more often than could occur by chance. Previous studies have shown that performance of this sequence is impaired by excitotoxin lesions of the corpus striatum. In this study we examined whether the striatum is unique in its importance to this behavioral sequence or whether control of the sequence instead depends equally upon the cortex and cerebellum. In two experiments, a fine-grained behavioral analysis compared the effects of striatal ablation to the effects of motor cortex ablation, ablation of the entire neocortex, or ablation of the cerebellum. Cortical and cerebellar aspiration produced mere temporary deficits in grooming sequences, which appeared to reflect a general factor that was nonsequential in nature. Only striatal damage produced a permanent sequential deficit in the coordination of this syntactic grooming chain. We conclude that the striatum has a unique role in the control of behavioral serial order. This striatal role may be related to a number of sequential disorders observed in human diseases involving the striatum.