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J Neurosci. 2017 Aug 30;37(35):8363-8373. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0450-17.2017. Epub 2017 Jul 20.

Adaptive Encoding of Outcome Prediction by Prefrontal Cortex Ensembles Supports Behavioral Flexibility.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience and Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260 adelarco@olemiss.edu.
2
Department of Neuroscience and Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260.

Abstract

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to play a critical role in behavioral flexibility by monitoring action-outcome contingencies. How PFC ensembles represent shifts in behavior in response to changes in these contingencies remains unclear. We recorded single-unit activity and local field potentials in the dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC) of male rats during a set-shifting task that required them to update their behavior, among competing options, in response to changes in action-outcome contingencies. As behavior was updated, a subset of PFC ensembles encoded the current trial outcome before the outcome was presented. This novel outcome-prediction encoding was absent in a control task, in which actions were rewarded pseudorandomly, indicating that PFC neurons are not merely providing an expectancy signal. In both control and set-shifting tasks, dmPFC neurons displayed postoutcome discrimination activity, indicating that these neurons also monitor whether a behavior is successful in generating rewards. Gamma-power oscillatory activity increased before the outcome in both tasks but did not differentiate between expected outcomes, suggesting that this measure is not related to set-shifting behavior but reflects expectation of an outcome after action execution. These results demonstrate that PFC neurons support flexible rule-based action selection by predicting outcomes that follow a particular action.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Tracking action-outcome contingencies and modifying behavior when those contingencies change is critical to behavioral flexibility. We find that ensembles of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex neurons differentiate between expected outcomes when action-outcome contingencies change. This predictive mode of signaling may be used to promote a new response strategy at the service of behavioral flexibility.

KEYWORDS:

cognitive flexibility; decision making; outcome prediction; single-unit recording; working memory; γ oscillations

PMID:
28729442
PMCID:
PMC5577853
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0450-17.2017
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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