Functional stability of dorsolateral prefrontal neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Aug;92(2):1042-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.00062.2004. Epub 2004 Apr 14.


Stable multiday recordings from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of 2 monkeys performing 2 Go/NoGo visual-discrimination tasks (one requiring well-learned responses, the other requiring learning) demonstrate that the majority of prefrontal neurons were "functionally stable". Recordings were made using a series of removable microdrives, each implanted for 3-6 mo, housing independently mobile electrodes. Action potential waveforms of 94 neurons were stable over 2-9 days; 66/94 (70%) of these cells responded each day, 22/94 (23%) never responded significantly, and 6/94 (6%) responded one day but not the next. Of 66 responsive neurons, 55 were selective for either Go or NoGo trials, individual stimuli, or eye movements. This selectivity was functionally stable (i.e., maintained) for 46/55 neurons across all recording days. Functional stability was also noted in terms of response strength (baseline firing rates compared with poststimulation firing rates) and event-related response timing. Two neurons with consistent responses in familiar testing conditions responded flexibly when the monkeys learned to make correct responses to novel stimuli. We conclude that the majority of prefrontal neurons were functionally stable during the performance of well-learned tasks. Such stability may be a general property of prefrontal neurons, given that neurons with 4 different types of task selectivity were found to be functionally stable. Conceptually similar studies based on long-term recordings in other cortical regions reached similar conclusions, suggesting that neurons throughout the brain are functionally stable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electrophysiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Perception / physiology