Prefrontal cortex activity related to abstract response strategies

Neuron. 2005 Jul 21;47(2):307-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.06.006.


Many monkeys adopt abstract response strategies as they learn to map visual symbols to responses by trial and error. According to the repeat-stay strategy, if a symbol repeats from a previous, successful trial, the monkeys should stay with their most recent response choice. According to the change-shift strategy, if the symbol changes, the monkeys should shift to a different choice. We recorded the activity of prefrontal cortex neurons while monkeys chose responses according to these two strategies. Many neurons had activity selective for the strategy used. In a subsequent block of trials, the monkeys learned fixed stimulus-response mappings with the same stimuli. Some neurons had activity selective for choosing responses based on fixed mappings, others for choosing based on abstract strategies. These findings indicate that the prefrontal cortex contributes to the implementation of the abstract response strategies that monkeys use during trial-and-error learning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • ROC Curve
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors