Encoding of behavioral significance of visual stimuli by primate prefrontal neurons: relation to relevant task conditions

Exp Brain Res. 1994;97(3):423-36. doi: 10.1007/BF00241536.


Single-unit activity was recorded from the inferior dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of two monkeys while they performed a symmetrically rewarded go/no-go discrimination task. Three different task conditions were used in which the monkeys had to base their response on (1) the color, or (2) the shape, or (3) the position of a cue that was presented during fixation of a light spot. The colors of the fixation spot informed the monkeys which condition was relevant. The monkeys had to make an immediate release (go) or a delayed release (no-go) at the time of the fixation color change (imperative stimulus) depending on the currently relevant condition and the discriminative cue previously presented. The effect of changing the relevant condition on neuronal responses to the discriminative cue was analyzed. Out of 328 neurons tested in two or three conditions, 249 responded differentially at the cue period depending on the particular behavioral meaning of the stimulus (go or no-go) in at least one of the task conditions. This differential cue-period activity was examined across the different task conditions: the majority of neurons (111/154, 72%) showed such activity in all three conditions. In the remaining 43 neurons (28%) the differential activity was observed in two conditions (27/154, 18%) or in one condition (16/154, 10%). A few neurons (n = 7) showed feature-specific cue-period activity. In addition, 27 neurons displayed condition-dependent anticipatory activity prior to the cue onset. It is suggested that neurons in the inferior dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may participate in the conversion of sensory information from different visual channels into behavioral information (information on the upcoming response).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Form Perception / physiology
  • Macaca
  • Male
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*