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Nat Neurosci. 2010 Jan;13(1):120-6. doi: 10.1038/nn.2453. Epub 2009 Dec 6.

Evaluating self-generated decisions in frontal pole cortex of monkeys.

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Laboratory of Systems Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The frontal pole cortex (FPC) expanded markedly during human evolution, but its function remains uncertain in both monkeys and humans. Accordingly, we examined single-cell activity in this area. On every trial, monkeys decided between two response targets on the basis of a 'stay' or 'shift' cue. Feedback followed at a fixed delay. FPC cells did not encode the monkeys' decisions when they were made, but did so later on, as feedback approached. This finding indicates that the FPC is involved in monitoring or evaluating decisions. Using a control task and delayed feedback, we found that decision coding lasted until feedback only when the monkeys combined working memory with sensory cues to 'self-generate' decisions, as opposed to when they simply followed trial-by-trial instructions. A role in monitoring or evaluating self-generated decisions could account for FPC's expansion during human evolution.

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