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Neuroscience. 2018 Feb 10;371:96-105. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.11.019. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Outcome Modulation Across Tasks in the Primate Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy.
Department of Intelligence Science and Technology, Graduate School of Informatics, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan; The Nielsen Company Singapore Pte Ltd, Singapore.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. Electronic address:


Animals need to learn and to adapt to new and changing environments so that appropriate actions that lead to desirable outcomes are acquired within each context. The prefrontal cortex (PF) is known to underlie such function that directly implies that the outcome of each response must be represented in the brain for behavioral policies update. However, whether such PF signal is context dependent or it is a general representation beyond the specificity of a context is still unclear. Here, we analyzed the activity of neurons in the dorsolateral PF (PFdl) recorded while two monkeys performed two perceptual magnitude discrimination tasks. Both tasks were well known by the monkeys and unexpected changes did not occur but the difficulty of the task varied from trial to trial and thus the monkeys made mistakes in a proportion of trials. We show a context-independent coding of the response outcome with neurons maintaining similar selectivity in both task contexts. Using a classification method of the neural activity, we also show that the trial outcome could be well predicted from the activity of the same neurons in the two contexts. Altogether, our results provide evidence of high degree of outcome generality in PFdl.


neurophysiology; outcome; prefrontal cortex; reward; task context

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