Prefrontal Representations Underlying Goal-Directed Behavior
An important function of prefrontal cortex is the control and organization of goal-directed behavior. This chapter will examine the neuronal mechanisms that underlie this function. One can broadly group these mechanisms according to their level of abstraction. At the simplest level are behaviors directed towards basic goals of homeostatic maintenance, for example maximizing energy intake or minimizing energy expenditure. Prefrontal neurons represent the expected outcomes of actions directed towards such goals. At a more complex level, prefrontal neurons encode representations of arbitrary relationships in the world, such as those between specific sensory stimuli and specific actions. For example, knowledge that a red traffic light means stop, while green means go. Finally, at the most abstract level prefrontal neurons represent rules and concepts, such as number or similarity. Taken together these representations ensure optimal action selection, so that behavior efficiently satisfies one’s goals.
KeywordsOrbitofrontal Cortex Response Association Inferior Temporal Cortex Reward Information Prefrontal Neuron
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Barbas H, Pandya D (1991) Patterns of connections of the prefrontal cortex in the rhesus monkey associated with cortical architecture. In: Levin HS, Eisenberg HM, Benton AL (eds) Frontal lobe function and dysfunction. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 35–58Google Scholar
- Goldman-Rakic PS (1987) Circuitry of primate prefrontal cortex and regulation of behavior by representational memory. In: Plum F (ed) Handbook of physiology: the nervous system, higher functions of the brain. American Physiological Society, Bethesda, MD, pp 373–417Google Scholar
- Kahneman D, Tversky A (2000) Choices, values and frames. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Kennerley SW, Lara AH, Wallis JD (2005) Prefrontal neurons encode an abstract representation of value. Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Lurchins AS (1942) Mechanization in problem solving. Psychol Monogr 54Google Scholar
- Milner B (1963) Effects of different brain lesions on card sorting. Arch Neurol 9:100–110Google Scholar
- Norman DA, Shallice T (1986) Attention to action: willed and automatic control of behaviour. In: Schwartz GE (ed) Consciousness and self-regulation. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Stephens DW, Krebs JR (1986) Foraging theory. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar