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J Neurosci. 2011 Feb 23;31(8):2888-94. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5336-10.2011.

Decoding the content of delayed intentions.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, United Kingdom.


Rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) plays a key role in our ability to postpone the execution of intended behaviors until after another activity has been performed. However, it is poorly understood in computational terms. One crucial question is whether RLPFC represents the content of delayed intentions or plays a nonspecific role. In this human functional magnetic resonance imaging study (n = 32), RLPFC was active while participants stored delayed intentions during a distracting ongoing task. Multivariate analysis showed that the intended cue for future action and the intended behavior could be decoded from distinct posterior brain regions. However, the content of intentions could not be decoded from RLPFC itself. Functional connectivity analysis showed that RLPFC increased its coupling with content-representing regions during intention storage. Furthermore, trials with relatively high RLPFC activity were associated with enhanced decoding. Thus, RLPFC may enable realization of delayed intentions via interactions with posterior brain regions, which represent their content.

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