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The Role of Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Memory and Decision Making

Some have claimed that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) mediates decision making. Others suggest mPFC is selectively involved in the retrieval of remote long-term memory. Yet others suggests mPFC supports memory and consolidation on time scales ranging from seconds to days. How can all these roles be reconciled? We propose that the function of the mPFC is to learn associations between context, locations, events, and corresponding adaptive responses, particularly emotional responses. Thus, the ubiquitous involvement of mPFC in both memory and decision making may be due to the fact that almost all such tasks entail the ability to recall the best action or emotional response to specific events in a particular place and time. An interaction between multiple memory systems may explain the changing importance of mPFC to different types of memories over time. In particular, mPFC likely relies on the hippocampus to support rapid learning and memory consolidation.