Correlated discharges in the primate prefrontal cortex before and after working memory training.
ABSTRACT The correlation of discharges between single neurons can provide information about the computations and network properties of neuronal populations during the performance of cognitive tasks. In recent years, dynamic modulation of neuronal correlations by attention has been revealed during the execution of behavioral tasks. Much less is known about the influence of learning and performing a task itself. We therefore sought to quantify the correlated firing of simultaneously recorded pairs of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of naïve monkeys that were only required to fixate, and to examine how this correlation was altered after they had learned to perform a working memory task. We found that the trial-to-trial correlation of discharge rates between pairs of neurons (noise correlation) differed across neurons depending on their responsiveness and selectivity for stimuli, even before training in a working memory task. After monkeys had learned to perform the task, correlated firing decreased overall, although the effects varied according to the functional properties of the neurons. The greatest decreases were observed on comparison of populations of neurons that exhibited elevated firing rates during the trial events and those that had more similar spatial and temporal tuning. Greater decreases in noise correlation were also observed for pairs comprising one fast spiking neuron (putative interneuron) and one regular spiking neuron (putative pyramidal neuron) than pairs comprising regular spiking neurons only. Our results demonstrate that learning and performance of a cognitive task alters the correlation structure of neuronal firing in the prefrontal cortex.
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ABSTRACT: Cognitive operationsrequiring working memory rely on the activity of neurons in areas of the association cortex, most prominently the lateral prefrontal cortex. Human imaging and animal neurophysiological studies indicate that this activity is shaped by learning, though much is unknown about how much training alters neural activity and cortical organization. Results from non-human primates demonstrate that prior to any training in cognitive tasks, prefrontal neurons respond to stimuli, exhibit persistent activity after their offset, and differentiate between matching and non-matching stimuli presented in sequence. A number of important changes also occur after training in a working memory task. More neurons are recruited by the stimuli and exhibit higher firing rates, particularly during the delay period. Operant stimuli that need to be recognized in order to perform the task elicit higher overall rates of responses, while the variability of individual discharges and correlation of discharges between neurons decrease after training. New information is incorporated in the activity of a small population of neuronshighly specialized for the task and in a larger population of neurons that exhibit modest task related information, while information about other aspects of stimuli remains present in neuronal activity. Despite such changes, the relative selectivity of the dorsal and ventral aspect of the lateral prefrontal cortex is not radically altered with regard to spatial and non-spatial stimuli after training. Collectively, these results provide insights on the nature and limits of cortical plasticity mediating cognitive tasks.Behavioural brain research 12/2012; 241. DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2012.12.017 · 3.39 Impact Factor