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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Dec;110(11):2648-60. doi: 10.1152/jn.00370.2013. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

Working memory performance and neural activity in prefrontal cortex of peripubertal monkeys.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina;


The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex matures late into adolescence or early adulthood. This pattern of maturation mirrors working memory abilities, which continue to improve into adulthood. However, the nature of the changes that prefrontal neuronal activity undergoes during this process is poorly understood. We investigated behavioral performance and neural activity in working memory tasks around the time of puberty, a developmental event associated with the release of sex hormones and significant neurological change. The developmental stages of male rhesus monkeys were evaluated with a series of morphometric, hormonal, and radiographic measures. Peripubertal monkeys were trained to perform an oculomotor delayed response task and a variation of this task involving a distractor stimulus. We found that the peripubertal monkeys tended to abort a relatively large fraction of trials, and these were associated with low levels of task-related neuronal activity. However, for completed trials, accuracy in the delayed saccade task was high and the appearance of a distractor stimulus did not impact performance significantly. In correct trials delay period activity was robust and was not eliminated by the presentation of a distracting stimulus, whereas in trials that resulted in errors the sustained cue-related activity was significantly weaker. Our results show that in peripubertal monkeys the prefrontal cortex is capable of generating robust persistent activity in the delay periods of working memory tasks, although in general it may be more prone to stochastic failure than in adults.


development; eye movement; neurophysiology; persistent activity; principal sulcus

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