Neural correlates of task switching in prefrontal cortex and primary auditory cortex in a novel stimulus selection task for rodents

Neuron. 2014 Jun 4;82(5):1157-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.031.


Animals can selectively respond to a target sound despite simultaneous distractors, just as humans can respond to one voice at a crowded cocktail party. To investigate the underlying neural mechanisms, we recorded single-unit activity in primary auditory cortex (A1) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of rats selectively responding to a target sound from a mixture. We found that prestimulus activity in mPFC encoded the selection rule-which sound from the mixture the rat should select. Moreover, electrically disrupting mPFC significantly impaired performance. Surprisingly, prestimulus activity in A1 also encoded selection rule, a cognitive variable typically considered the domain of prefrontal regions. Prestimulus changes correlated with stimulus-evoked changes, but stimulus tuning was not strongly affected. We suggest a model in which anticipatory activation of a specific network of neurons underlies the selection of a sound from a mixture, giving rise to robust and widespread rule encoding in both brain regions.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans