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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Nov 25;94(24):13293-8.

A hierarchical neuronal network for planning behavior.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Unité 344, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, CEA/DRM/DSV, Orsay, France.


Planning a goal-directed sequence of behavior is a higher function of the human brain that relies on the integrity of prefrontal cortical areas. In the Tower of London test, a puzzle in which beads sliding on pegs must be moved to match a designated goal configuration, patients with lesioned prefrontal cortex show deficits in planning a goal-directed sequence of moves. We propose a neuronal network model of sequence planning that passes this test and, when lesioned, fails in a way that mimics prefrontal patients' behavior. Our model comprises a descending planning system with hierarchically organized plan, operation, and gesture levels, and an ascending evaluative system that analyzes the problem and computes internal reward signals that index the correct/erroneous status of the plan. Multiple parallel pathways connecting the evaluative and planning systems amend the plan and adapt it to the current problem. The model illustrates how specialized hierarchically organized neuronal assemblies may collectively emulate central executive or supervisory functions of the human brain.

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