Neuronal activity in primate dorsolateral and orbital prefrontal cortex during performance of a reward preference task

Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Oct;18(7):2069-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02922.x.


An important function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the control of goal-directed behaviour. This requires information as to whether actions were successful in obtaining desired outcomes such as rewards. While lesion studies implicate a particular PFC region, the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), in reward processing, neurons encoding reward have been reported in both the OFC and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). To compare and contrast their roles, we recorded simultaneously from both areas while two rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) performed a reward preference task. The monkeys had to choose between pictures associated with different amounts of a juice reward. Neuronal activity in both areas reflected the reward amount. However, neurons in the DLPFC encoded both the reward amount and the monkeys' forthcoming response, while neurons in the OFC more often encoded the reward amount alone. Further, reward selectivity arose more rapidly in the OFC than the DLPFC. These results are consistent with reward information entering the PFC via the OFC, where it is passed to the DLPFC and used to control behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cell Count
  • Choice Behavior
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Goals
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • ROC Curve
  • Reaction Time
  • Reward*
  • Saccades
  • Time Factors