Ramon Nogueira, Juan M. Abolafia, Jan Drugowitsch, Emili Balaguer-Ballester, Maria V. Sanchez-Vives & Rubén Moreno-Bote
Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14823 (2017) doi:10.1038/ncomms14823
Adaptive behavior requires integrating prior with current information to anticipate upcoming events. Brain structures related to this computation should bring relevant signals from the recent past into the present. Here we report that rats can integrate the most recent prior information with sensory information, thereby improving behavior on a perceptual decision-making task with outcome-dependent past trial history. We find that anticipatory signals in the orbitofrontal cortex about upcoming choice increase over time and are even present before stimulus onset. These neuronal signals also represent the stimulus and relevant second-order combinations of past state variables. The encoding of choice, stimulus and second-order past state variables resides, up to movement onset, in overlapping populations. The neuronal representation of choice before stimulus onset and its build-up once the stimulus is presented suggest that orbitofrontal cortex plays a role in transforming immediate prior and stimulus information into choices using a compact state-space representation.