Cortical information flow during flexible sensorimotor decisions

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Science  19 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6241, pp. 1352-1355
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0551

Signal flow during sensorimotor choices

Little is known about the flow of task signals across the brain. Siegel et al. simultaneously recorded from multiple units in the sensory, parietal, prefrontal, and motor cortex while monkeys were cued to perform one among two possible simple tasks. The proportion of neurons coding for stimuli, cues, tasks, and choices, and their response latency, varied across regions. Parietal and prefrontal brain regions encoded task information and choices with the same latency. Interestingly, all brain areas encoded all types of information. However, they differed functionally according to the proportions of neurons and their response latency.

Science, this issue p. 1352


During flexible behavior, multiple brain regions encode sensory inputs, the current task, and choices. It remains unclear how these signals evolve. We simultaneously recorded neuronal activity from six cortical regions [middle temporal area (MT), visual area four (V4), inferior temporal cortex (IT), lateral intraparietal area (LIP), prefrontal cortex (PFC), and frontal eye fields (FEF)] of monkeys reporting the color or motion of stimuli. After a transient bottom-up sweep, there was a top-down flow of sustained task information from frontoparietal to visual cortex. Sensory information flowed from visual to parietal and prefrontal cortex. Choice signals developed simultaneously in frontoparietal regions and travelled to FEF and sensory cortex. This suggests that flexible sensorimotor choices emerge in a frontoparietal network from the integration of opposite flows of sensory and task information.

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