Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The pFC plays a key role in flexible, context-specific decision making. One proposal [Machens, C. K., Romo, R., & Brody, C. D. Flexible control of mutual inhibition: A neural model of two-interval discrimination. Science, 307, 1121–1124, 2005] is that prefrontal cells may be dynamically organized into opponent coding circuits, with competitive groups of cells coding opposite behavioral decisions. Here, we show evidence for extensive, temporally evolving opponent organization in the monkey pFC during a cued target detection task. More than a half of all randomly selected cells discriminated stimulus category in this task. The largest set showed target-positive activity, with the strongest responses to the current target, intermediate activity for a nontarget that was a target on other trials, and lowest activity for nontargets never associated with the target category. Second most frequent was a reverse, antitarget pattern. In the ventrolateral frontal cortex, opponent organization was strongly established in phasic responses at stimulus onset; later, such activity was widely spread across dorsolateral and ventrolateral sites. Task-specific organization into opponent cell groups may be a general feature of prefrontal decision making.