Past makes future: role of pFC in prediction

J Cogn Neurosci. 2015 Apr;27(4):639-54. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00746. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


The pFC enables the essential human capacities for predicting future events and preadapting to them. These capacities rest on both the structure and dynamics of the human pFC. Structurally, pFC, together with posterior association cortex, is at the highest hierarchical level of cortical organization, harboring neural networks that represent complex goal-directed actions. Dynamically, pFC is at the highest level of the perception-action cycle, the circular processing loop through the cortex that interfaces the organism with the environment in the pursuit of goals. In its predictive and preadaptive roles, pFC supports cognitive functions that are critical for the temporal organization of future behavior, including planning, attentional set, working memory, decision-making, and error monitoring. These functions have a common future perspective and are dynamically intertwined in goal-directed action. They all utilize the same neural infrastructure: a vast array of widely distributed, overlapping, and interactive cortical networks of personal memory and semantic knowledge, named cognits, which are formed by synaptic reinforcement in learning and memory acquisition. From this cortex-wide reservoir of memory and knowledge, pFC generates purposeful, goal-directed actions that are preadapted to predicted future events.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*