Prefrontal cortex exhibits multidimensional dynamic encoding during decision-making

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Nov;23(11):1410-1420. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0696-5. Epub 2020 Oct 5.


Recent work has suggested that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a key role in context-dependent perceptual decision-making. In this study, we addressed that role using a new method for identifying task-relevant dimensions of neural population activity. Specifically, we show that the PFC has a multidimensional code for context, decisions and both relevant and irrelevant sensory information. Moreover, these representations evolve in time, with an early linear accumulation phase followed by a phase with rotational dynamics. We identify the dimensions of neural activity associated with these phases and show that they do not arise from distinct populations but from a single population with broad tuning characteristics. Finally, we use model-based decoding to show that the transition from linear to rotational dynamics coincides with a plateau in decoding accuracy, revealing that rotational dynamics in the PFC preserve sensory choice information for the duration of the stimulus integration period.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*