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Nat Commun. 2016 Sep 22;7:12830. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12830.

Representational changes of latent strategies in rat medial prefrontal cortex precede changes in behaviour.

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Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


The ability to change behavioural strategies in the face of a changing world has been linked to the integrity of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) function in several species. While recording studies have found that mPFC representations reflect the strategy being used, lesion studies suggest that mPFC is necessary for changing strategy. Here we examine the relationship between representational changes in mPFC and behavioural strategy changes in the rat. We found that on tasks with a forced change in reward criterion, strategy-related representational transitions in mPFC occurred after animals learned that the reward contingency had changed, but before their behaviour changed. On tasks in which animals made their own strategic decisions, representational transitions in mPFC preceded changes in behaviour. These results suggest that mPFC does not merely reflect the action-selection policy of the animal, but rather that mPFC processes information related to a need for a change in strategy.

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