Ablation of medial prefrontal cortex impairs spatial discrimination learning in adult but not in neonatally lesioned rats. Orbital prefrontal cortex and adjacent convexity neocortex need not be left intact to observe this sparing of function. This study examined the possibility that the caudate nucleus, remaining intact after early medial prefrontal cortex lesions, might be involved in the observed behavioral sparing. Neonatal rats given combined lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex and head of the caudate nucleus were compared to age/litter-matched sham-operated controls on spatial alternation and place response acquisition and "reversal" tests. The results show that the performance of these neonatally lesioned subjects was deficient on both tests. The discussion centers on possible recovery mechanisms in rats given prefrontothalamic system damage early in life.