Representation of multiple, independent categories in the primate prefrontal cortex

Neuron. 2010 Jun 10;66(5):796-807. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.05.005.


Neural correlates of visual categories have been previously identified in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, whether individual neurons can represent multiple categories is unknown. Varying degrees of generalization versus specialization of neurons in the PFC have been theorized. We recorded from lateral PFC neural activity while monkeys switched between two different and independent categorical distinctions (Cats versus Dogs, Sports Cars versus Sedans). We found that many PFC neurons reflected both categorical distinctions. In fact, these multitasking neurons had the strongest category effects. This stands in contrast to our lab's recent report that monkeys switching between competing categorical distinctions (applied to the same stimulus set) showed independent representations. We suggest that cognitive demands determine whether PFC neurons function as category "multitaskers."

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*