Intelligent behavior requires acquiring and following rules. Rules define how our behavior should fit different situations. To understand its neural mechanisms, we simultaneously recorded from multiple electrodes in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) while monkeys switched between two rules (respond to color versus orientation). We found evidence that oscillatory synchronization of local field potentials (LFPs) formed neural ensembles representing the rules: there were rule-specific increases in synchrony at "beta" (19-40 Hz) frequencies between electrodes. In addition, individual PFC neurons synchronized to the LFP ensemble corresponding to the current rule (color versus orientation). Furthermore, the ensemble encoding the behaviorally dominant orientation rule showed increased "alpha" (6-16 Hz) synchrony when preparing to apply the alternative (weaker) color rule. This suggests that beta-frequency synchrony selects the relevant rule ensemble, while alpha-frequency synchrony deselects a stronger, but currently irrelevant, ensemble. Synchrony may act to dynamically shape task-relevant neural ensembles out of larger, overlapping circuits.
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