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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Jun;101(6):2859-71. doi: 10.1152/jn.90615.2008. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Delay activity in rodent frontal cortex during a simple reaction time task.

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The John B. Pierce Laboratory, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06519, USA.


To understand how different parts of the frontal cortex control the timing of action, we characterized the firing patterns of single neurons in two areas of rodent frontal cortex-dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and motor cortex-during a simple reaction time task. Principal component analysis was used to identify major patterns of delay-related activity in frontal cortex: ramping activity and sustained delay activity. These patterns were similar in dmPFC and motor cortex and did not change as animals learned to respond at novel delays. Many neurons in both areas were modulated early in the delay period. Other neurons were modulated in a persistent manner over the duration of the delay period. Delay-related modulations started earlier in motor cortex than in dmPFC and terminated around different task events (at the time of release in dmPFC, just before release of the lever in motor cortex). A subpopulation of neurons was found in dmPFC, but not motor cortex, that fired in response to the trigger stimulus. These results suggest that populations of neurons in rodent frontal cortex are coordinated during delay periods to enable proactive inhibitory control of action.

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