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Curr Biol. 2008 Mar 25;18(6):419-24. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.02.047.

Neural correlates of social target value in macaque parietal cortex.

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Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Animals as diverse as arthropods [1], fish [2], reptiles [3], birds [4], and mammals, including primates [5], depend on visually acquired information about conspecifics for survival and reproduction. For example, mate localization often relies on vision [6], and visual cues frequently advertise sexual receptivity or phenotypic quality [5]. Moreover, recognizing previously encountered competitors or individuals with preestablished territories [7] or dominance status [1, 5] can eliminate the need for confrontation and the associated energetic expense and risk for injury. Furthermore, primates, including humans, tend to look toward conspecifics and objects of their attention [8, 9], and male monkeys will forego juice rewards to view images of high-ranking males and female genitalia [10]. Despite these observations, we know little about how the brain evaluates social information or uses this appraisal to guide behavior. Here, we show that neurons in the primate lateral intraparietal area (LIP), a cortical area previously linked to attention and saccade planning [11, 12], signal the value of social information when this assessment influences orienting decisions. In contrast, social expectations had no impact on LIP neuron activity when monkeys were not required to make a choice. These results demonstrate for the first time that parietal cortex carries abstract, modality-independent target value signals that inform the choice of where to look.

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