Perceptual decisions arise from the activity of neurons distributed across brain circuits. But, decoding the mechanisms behind this cognitive operation across brain circuits has long posed a difficult problem. We recorded the neuronal activity of diverse cortical areas, while monkeys performed a vibrotactile discrimination task. We find that the encoding of the stimuli during the stimulus periods, working memory, and comparison periods is widely distributed across cortical areas. Notably, during the comparison and postponed decision report periods the activity of frontal brain circuits encode both the result of the sensory evaluation that corresponds to the monkey's possible choices and past information on which the decision is based. These results suggest that frontal lobe circuits are more engaged in the readout of sensory information from working memory, when it is required to be compared with other sensory inputs, than simply engaged in motor responses during this task.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.