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Front Neural Circuits. 2012 Nov 22;6:88. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00088. eCollection 2012.

Closing the loop in primate prefrontal cortex: inter-laminar processing.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine Winston-Salem, NC, USA.


Prefrontal cortical (PFC) activity in the primate brain emerging from minicolumnar microcircuits plays a critical role in cognitive processes dealing with executive control of behavior. However, the specific operations of columnar laminar processing in prefrontal cortex (PFC) are not completely understood. Here we show via implementation of unique microanatomical recording and stimulating arrays, that minicolumns in PFC are involved in the executive control of behavior in rhesus macaque nonhuman primates (NHPs) performing a delayed-match-to-sample (DMS) task. PFC neurons demonstrate functional interactions between pairs of putative pyramidal cells within specified cortical layers via anatomically oriented minicolumns. Results reveal target-specific, spatially tuned firing between inter-laminar (layer 2/3 and layer 5) pairs of neurons participating in the gating of information during the decision making phase of the task with differential correlations between activity in layer 2/3 and layer 5 in the integration of spatial vs. object-specific information for correct task performance. Such inter-laminar processing was exploited by the interfacing of an online model which delivered stimulation to layer 5 locations in a pattern associated with successful performance thereby closing the columnar loop externally in a manner that mimicked normal processing in the same task. These unique technologies demonstrate that PFC neurons encode and process information via minicolumns which provides a closed loop form of "executive function," hence disruption of such inter-laminar processing could form the bases for cognitive dysfunction in primate brain.


columnar correlates of target selection; columnar correlates of task difficulty; inter-laminar correlated firing; nonhuman primates; prefrontal cortex; spatial vs. object tuning

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