Representation of actions and outcomes in medial prefrontal cortex during delayed conditional decision making: Population analyses of single neuron activity

Academic Article


  • To respond adaptively in a dynamic environment it is important for organisms to utilize information about recent events to decide between response options. To examine the role of medial prefrontal cortex in adaptive decision-making we recorded single neuron activity in rats performing a dynamic delayed non-matching to position (dDNMTP) task. We recorded activity from 1,335 isolated neurons, 458 (34%) with criterion event-related activity, of which 431 (94%) exhibited one of 10 distinct excitatory response types: 5 at different times relative to delivery (or lack) of reinforcement following sample and choice responses and 5 correlated with movements or lever press actions that occurred multiple times in each trial. Normalized population averages revealed a precisely timed cascade of population responses representing the temporal organization behavioral events that constitute DNMTP trials. Firing field analyses identified a subset of neurons with restricted spatial fields: responding to the conjunction of a behavioral event with a specific location. Anatomical analyses showed considerable overlap in the distribution of different response types in medial prefrontal cortex with a significant trend for dorsal areas to contain more neurons with action-related activity and ventral areas more responses related to action outcomes. These results indicate that medial prefrontal cortex contains discrete populations of neurons that represent the temporal organization of actions and outcomes during DNMTP trials. They support the hypothesis that medial prefrontal cortex promotes flexible control of complex behaviors by action-outcome contingencies.
  • Authors

  • Francoeur, Miranda
  • Mair, RG
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • May 29, 2018
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1
  • End Page

  • 15
  • Volume

  • 2