Triple dissociation of attention and decision computations across prefrontal cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2018 Oct;21(10):1471-1481. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0239-5. Epub 2018 Sep 26.


Naturalistic decision-making typically involves sequential deployment of attention to choice alternatives to gather information before a decision is made. Attention filters how information enters decision circuits, thus implying that attentional control may shape how decision computations unfold. We recorded neuronal activity from three subregions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) while monkeys performed an attention-guided decision-making task. From the first saccade to decision-relevant information, a triple dissociation of decision- and attention-related computations emerged in parallel across PFC subregions. During subsequent saccades, orbitofrontal cortex activity reflected the value comparison between currently and previously attended information. In contrast, the anterior cingulate cortex carried several signals reflecting belief updating in light of newly attended information, the integration of evidence to a decision bound and an emerging plan for what action to choose. Our findings show how anatomically dissociable PFC representations evolve during attention-guided information search, supporting computations critical for value-guided choice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Saccades / physiology