Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Primate behavior is flexible: The response to a stimulus often depends on the task in which it occurs. Here we study how single neurons in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) respond to stimuli which are associated with different responses in different tasks. Two rhesus monkeys performed a task-switching paradigm. Each trial started with a task cue instructing which of two tasks to perform, followed by a stimulus requiring a left or right button press. For half the stimuli, the associated responses were different in the two tasks, meaning that the task context was necessary to disambiguate the incongruent stimuli. The other half of stimuli required the same response irrespective of task context (congruent). Using this paradigm, we previously showed that behavioral responses to incongruent stimuli are significantly slower than to congruent stimuli. We now demonstrate a neural correlate in the PPC of the additional processing time required for incongruent stimuli. Furthermore, we previously found that 29% of parietal neurons encode the task being performed (task-selective cells). We now report differences in neuronal timing related to congruency in task-selective versus task nonselective cells. These differences in timing suggest that the activity in task nonselective cells reflects a motor command, whereas activity in task-selective cells reflects a decision process.