Distinct Information Representation and Processing for Goal-Directed Behavior in the Dorsolateral and Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex and the Dorsal Premotor Cortex
Tomoko Yamagata, Yoshihisa Nakayama, Jun Tanji, and Eiji Hoshi
J. Neurosci. 2012;32 12934-12949
Although the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) and dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) are thought to be involved in goal-directed behavior, the specific roles of each area still remain elusive. To characterize and compare neuronal activity in two sectors of the lPFC [dorsal (dlPFC) and ventral (vlPFC)] and the PMd, we designed a behavioral task for monkeys to explore the differences in their participation in four aspects of information processing: encoding of visual signals, behavioral goal retrieval, action specification, and maintenance of relevant information. We initially presented a visual object (an instruction cue) to instruct a behavioral goal (reaching to the right or left of potential targets). After a subsequent delay, a choice cue appeared at various locations on a screen, and the animals could specify an action to achieve the behavioral goal. We found that vlPFC neurons amply encoded object features of the instruction cues for behavioral goal retrieval and, subsequently, spatial locations of the choice cues for specifying the actions. By contrast, dlPFC and PMd neurons rarely encoded the object features, although they reflected the behavioral goals throughout the delay period. After the appearance of the choice cues, the PMd held information for action throughout the specification and preparation of reaching movements. Remarkably, lPFC neurons represented information for the behavioral goal continuously, even after the action specification as well as during its execution. These results indicate that area-specific representation and information processing at progressive stages of the perception–action transformation in these areas underlie goal-directed behavior.