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Nat Neurosci. 2001 Mar;4(3):311-6.

The sensory nature of mnemonic representation in the primate prefrontal cortex.

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Section of Neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.


A long-standing issue concerning the function of the primate dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is whether the activity of prefrontal neurons reflects the perceived sensory attributes of a remembered stimulus, or the decision to execute a motor response. To distinguish between these possibilities, we recorded neuronal activity from monkeys trained to make a saccade toward the brighter of two memoranda, under conditions of varied luminance. Our results indicated that during the delay period when sensory information was no longer available, neuronal discharge was modulated by the luminance of the stimulus appearing in the receptive field, and was directly correlated with psychophysical performance in the task. The findings suggest that although prefrontal cortex codes for a diversity of representations, including the decision for an impending response, a population of neurons maintains the dimensional attributes of remembered stimuli throughout the delay period, which allows for flexibility in the outcome of a mnemonic process.

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