Differences between neural activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum during learning of novel abstract categories.
ABSTRACT: Learning to classify diverse experiences into meaningful groups, like categories, is fundamental to normal cognition. To understand its neural basis, we simultaneously recorded from multiple electrodes in lateral prefrontal cortex and dorsal striatum, two interconnected brain structures critical for learning. Each day, monkeys learned to associate novel abstract, dot-based categories with a right versus left saccade. Early on, when they could acquire specific stimulus-response associations, striatum activity was an earlier predictor of the corresponding saccade. However, as the number of exemplars increased and monkeys had to learn to classify them, PFC activity began to predict the saccade associated with each category before the striatum. While monkeys were categorizing novel exemplars at a high rate, PFC activity was a strong predictor of their corresponding saccade early in the trial before the striatal neurons. These results suggest that striatum plays a greater role in stimulus-response association and PFC in abstraction of categories.
Project description:The ability to learn abstract relational concepts is fundamental to higher level cognition. In contrast to item-specific concepts (e.g. pictures containing trees versus pictures containing cars), abstract relational concepts are not bound to particular stimulus features, but instead involve the relationship between stimuli and therefore may be extrapolated to novel stimuli. Previous research investigating the same/different abstract concept has suggested that primates might be specially adapted to extract relations among items and would require fewer exemplars of a rule to learn an abstract concept than non-primate species. We assessed abstract-concept learning in an avian species, Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana), using a small number of exemplars (eight pairs of the same rule, and 56 pairs of the different rule) identical to that previously used to compare rhesus monkeys, capuchin monkeys and pigeons. Nutcrackers as a group (N = 9) showed more novel stimulus transfer than any previous species tested with this small number of exemplars. Two nutcrackers showed full concept learning and four more showed transfer considerably above chance performance, indicating partial concept learning. These results show that the Clark's nutcracker, a corvid species well known for its amazing feats of spatial memory, learns the same/different abstract concept better than any non-human species (including non-human primates) yet tested on this same task.
Project description:Neurons in prefrontal cortex (PFC) encode rules, goals, and other abstract information thought to underlie cognitive, emotional, and behavioral flexibility. Here we show that the amygdala, a brain area traditionally thought to mediate emotions, also encodes abstract information that could underlie this flexibility. Monkeys performed a task in which stimulus-reinforcement contingencies varied between two sets of associations, each defining a context. Reinforcement prediction required identifying a stimulus and knowing the current context. Behavioral evidence indicated that monkeys utilized this information to perform inference and adjust their behavior. Neural representations in both amygdala and PFC reflected the linked sets of associations implicitly defining each context, a process requiring a level of abstraction characteristic of cognitive operations. Surprisingly, when errors were made, the context signal weakened substantially in the amygdala. These data emphasize the importance of maintaining abstract cognitive information in the amygdala to support flexible behavior.
Project description:Neural correlates of visual categories have been previously identified in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, whether individual neurons can represent multiple categories is unknown. Varying degrees of generalization versus specialization of neurons in the PFC have been theorized. We recorded from lateral PFC neural activity while monkeys switched between two different and independent categorical distinctions (Cats versus Dogs, Sports Cars versus Sedans). We found that many PFC neurons reflected both categorical distinctions. In fact, these multitasking neurons had the strongest category effects. This stands in contrast to our lab's recent report that monkeys switching between competing categorical distinctions (applied to the same stimulus set) showed independent representations. We suggest that cognitive demands determine whether PFC neurons function as category "multitaskers."
Project description:Real-world value often depends on subtle, continuously variable visual cues specific to particular object categories, like the tailoring of a suit, the condition of an automobile, or the construction of a house. Here, we used microelectrode recording in behaving monkeys to test two possible mechanisms for category-specific value-cue processing: (1) previous findings suggest that prefrontal cortex (PFC) identifies object categories, and based on category identity, PFC could use top-down attentional modulation to enhance visual processing of category-specific value cues, providing signals to PFC for calculating value, and (2) a faster mechanism would be first-pass visual processing of category-specific value cues, immediately providing the necessary visual information to PFC. This, however, would require learned mechanisms for processing the appropriate cues in a given object category. To test these hypotheses, we trained monkeys to discriminate value in four letter-like stimulus categories. Each category had a different, continuously variable shape cue that signified value (liquid reward amount) as well as other cues that were irrelevant. Monkeys chose between stimuli of different reward values. Consistent with the first-pass hypothesis, we found early signals for category-specific value cues in area TE (the final stage in monkey ventral visual pathway) beginning 81 ms after stimulus onset-essentially at the start of TE responses. Task-related activity emerged in lateral PFC approximately 40 ms later and consisted mainly of category-invariant value tuning. Our results show that, for familiar, behaviorally relevant object categories, high-level ventral pathway cortex can implement rapid, first-pass processing of category-specific value cues.
Project description:Categories can be grouped by shared sensory attributes (i.e., cats) or a more abstract rule (i.e., animals). We explored the neural basis of abstraction by recording from multi-electrode arrays in prefrontal cortex (PFC) while monkeys performed a dot-pattern categorization task. Category abstraction was varied by the degree of exemplar distortion from the prototype pattern. Different dynamics in different PFC regions processed different levels of category abstraction. Bottom-up dynamics (stimulus-locked gamma power and spiking) in the ventral PFC processed more low-level abstractions, whereas top-down dynamics (beta power and beta spike-LFP coherence) in the dorsal PFC processed more high-level abstractions. Our results suggest a two-stage, rhythm-based model for abstracting categories.
Project description:A subanesthetic dose of the noncompetitive N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonist ketamine is known to induce a schizophrenia-like phenotype in humans and nonhuman primates alike. The transient behavioral changes mimic the positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of the disease but the neural mechanisms behind these changes are poorly understood. A growing body of evidence indicates that the cognitive control processes associated with prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions relies on groups of neurons synchronizing at narrow-band frequencies measurable in the local field potential (LFP). Here, we recorded LFPs from the caudo-lateral PFC of 2 macaque monkeys performing an antisaccade task, which requires the suppression of an automatic saccade toward a stimulus and the initiation of a goal-directed saccade in the opposite direction. Preketamine injection activity showed significant differences in a narrow 20-30 Hz beta frequency band between correct and error trials in the postsaccade response epoch. Ketamine significantly impaired the animals' performance and was associated with a loss of the differences in outcome-specific beta-band power. Instead, we observed a large increase in high-gamma-band activity. Our results suggest that the PFC employs beta-band synchronization to prepare for top-down cognitive control of saccades and the monitoring of task outcome.
Project description:Functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and striatum (STR) is thought critical for cognition and has been linked to conditions like autism and schizophrenia. We recorded from multiple electrodes in PFC and STR while monkeys acquired new categories. Category learning was accompanied by an increase in beta band synchronization of LFPs between, but not within, the PFC and STR. After learning, different pairs of PFC-STR electrodes showed stronger synchrony for one or the other category, suggesting category-specific functional circuits. This category-specific synchrony was also seen between PFC spikes and STR LFPs, but not the reverse, reflecting the direct monosynaptic connections from the PFC to STR. However, causal connectivity analyses suggested that the polysynaptic connections from STR to the PFC exerted a stronger overall influence. This supports models positing that the basal ganglia "train" the PFC. Category learning may depend on the formation of functional circuits between the PFC and STR.
Project description:Dopamine D2 receptors (D2R) play a major role in cognition, mood and motor movements. Their blockade by antipsychotic drugs reduces hallucinatory and delusional behaviors in schizophrenia, but often fails to alleviate affective and cognitive dysfunctions. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) expresses D2R and is altered in schizophrenia. We investigated how D2R modulate behavior and PFC function in monkeys. Two monkeys learned new and performed highly familiar visuomotor associations, where each cue was associated with a saccade to a right or left target. We recorded neural spikes and local field potentials from multiple electrodes while injecting the D2R antagonist eticlopride in the lateral PFC. Blocking prefrontal D2R impaired associative learning and cognitive flexibility, reduced motivation, but left the performance of familiar associations intact. Eticlopride reduced saccade-direction selectivity of prefrontal neurons, leading to a decrease in neural information about the associations, and an increase in alpha oscillations. These results, together with our recent study using a D1R antagonist, suggest that D1R and D2R in the primate lateral PFC cooperate to modulate several executive functions. Our findings help to gain insight into why antipsychotic drugs, with strong antagonistic actions on D2R, fail to ameliorate cognitive and emotional deficits in schizophrenia.
Project description:Categorization has been associated with distributed networks of the primate brain, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Although category-selective spiking in PFC and PPC has been established, the frequency-dependent dynamic interactions of frontoparietal networks are largely unexplored. We trained monkeys to perform a delayed-match-to-spatial-category task while recording spikes and local field potentials from the PFC and PPC with multiple electrodes. We found category-selective beta- and delta-band synchrony between and within the areas. However, in addition to the categories, delta synchrony and spiking activity also reflected irrelevant stimulus dimensions. By contrast, beta synchrony only conveyed information about the task-relevant categories. Further, category-selective PFC neurons were synchronized with PPC beta oscillations, while neurons that carried irrelevant information were not. These results suggest that long-range beta-band synchrony could act as a filter that only supports neural representations of the variables relevant to the task at hand.
Project description:Cognitive control often requires suppression of prepotent stimulus-driven responses in favor of less potent alternatives. Suppression of prepotent saccades has been shown to require proactive inhibition in the frontoparietal saccade network. Electrophysiological evidence in macaque monkeys has revealed neural correlates of such inhibition in this network; however, the interlaminar instantiation of inhibitory processes remains poorly understood because these areas lie deep within sulci in macaques, rendering them inaccessible to laminar recordings. Here, we addressed this gap by exploiting the mostly lissencephalic cortex of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). We inserted linear electrode arrays into areas 8Ad-the putative marmoset frontal eye field-and the lateral intraparietal area of two male marmosets and recorded neural activity during performance of a task comprised of alternating blocks of trials requiring a saccade either toward a large, high-luminance stimulus or the inhibition of this prepotent response in favor of a saccade toward a small, low-luminance stimulus. We observed prominent task-dependent activity in both alpha/gamma bands of the LFP and discharge rates of single neurons in area 8Ad during a prestimulus task epoch in which the animals had been instructed which of these two tasks to perform but before peripheral stimulus onset. These data are consistent with a model in which rhythmic alpha-band activity in deeper layers inhibits spiking in upper layers to support proactive inhibitory saccade control.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Failures to inhibit automatic saccadic responses are a hallmark of many neuropsychiatric disorders, but how this process is implemented across the cortical layers in the frontoparietal saccade network remains unknown because many of the areas are inaccessible to laminar recordings in macaques. Here, we investigated laminar neural activity in marmoset monkeys, which have a smooth cortex. Monkeys were required either to generate or inhibit a prepotent saccade response. In area 8Ad, the putative frontal eye field in marmosets, rhythmic alpha-band activity (9-14 Hz) was higher in deeper layers and spiking activity was lower in upper layers when the animals were instructed to suppress a saccade toward a peripheral stimulus. Reduced alpha power during task preparation may be the underlying common neural basis of a saccade suppression deficit.