Context-Dependent Decision Making in a Premotor Circuit

Neuron. 2020 Apr 22;106(2):316-328.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.01.034. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Cognitive capacities afford contingent associations between sensory information and behavioral responses. We studied this problem using an olfactory delayed match to sample task whereby a sample odor specifies the association between a subsequent test odor and rewarding action. Multi-neuron recordings revealed representations of the sample and test odors in olfactory sensory and association cortex, which were sufficient to identify the test odor as match or non-match. Yet, inactivation of a downstream premotor area (ALM), but not orbitofrontal cortex, confined to the epoch preceding the test odor led to gross impairment. Olfactory decisions that were not context-dependent were unimpaired. Therefore, ALM does not receive the outcome of a match/non-match decision from upstream areas. It receives contextual information-the identity of the sample-to establish the mapping between test odor and action. A novel population of pyramidal neurons in ALM layer 2 may mediate this process.

Keywords: ALM; anterolateral motor cortex; context; decision-making; flexible behavior; olfaction; premotor cortex; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Mice
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Cortex / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Optogenetics
  • Piriform Cortex / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Reward
  • Smell / physiology