The medial prefrontal cortex is thought to be important for guiding behavior according to an animal's expectations. Efforts to decode the region have focused not only on the question of what information it computes, but also how distinct circuit components become engaged during behavior. We find that the activity of regular-firing, putative projection neurons contains rich information about behavioral context and firing fields cluster around reward sites, while activity among putative inhibitory and fast-spiking neurons is most associated with movement and accompanying sensory stimulation. These dissociations were observed even between adjacent neurons with apparently reciprocal, inhibitory-excitatory connections. A smaller population of projection neurons with burst-firing patterns did not show clustered firing fields around rewards; these neurons, although heterogeneous, were generally less selective for behavioral context than regular-firing cells. The data suggest a network that tracks an animal's behavioral situation while, at the same time, regulating excitation levels to emphasize high valued positions. In this scenario, the function of fast-spiking inhibitory neurons is to constrain network output relative to incoming sensory flow. This scheme could serve as a bridge between abstract sensorimotor information and single-dimensional codes for value, providing a neural framework to generate expectations from behavioral state.
Keywords: anterior cingulate cortex; coding; inhibition; motivation; rat.
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