Letter

Nature 445, 315-318 (18 January 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05470; Received 6 July 2006; Accepted 21 November 2006; Published online 20 December 2006

Categorization of behavioural sequences in the prefrontal cortex

Keisetsu Shima1, Masaki Isoda1, Hajime Mushiake1 and Jun Tanji1,2

  1. Department of Physiology, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, 980-8575, Japan
  2. Brain Science Research Center, Tamagawa University Research Institute, Tamagawa-Gakuen, Machida, Tokyo, 194-8610, Japan

Correspondence to: Jun Tanji1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.T. (Email: tanji@lab.tamagawa.ac.jp).

Although it has long been thought that the prefrontal cortex of primates is involved in the integrative regulation of behaviours1, 2, 3, 4, the neural architecture underlying specific aspects of cognitive behavioural planning has yet to be clarified5, 6, 7, 8. If subjects are required to remember a large number of complex motor sequences and plan to execute each of them individually, categorization of the sequences according to the specific temporal structure inherent in each subset of sequences serves to facilitate higher-order planning based on memory. Here we show, using these requirements, that cells in the lateral prefrontal cortex selectively exhibit activity for a specific category of behavioural sequences, and that categories of behaviours, embodied by different types of movement sequences, are represented in prefrontal cells during the process of planning. This cellular activity implies the generation of neural representations capable of storing structured event complexes at an abstract level, exemplifying the development of macro-structured action knowledge in the lateral prefrontal cortex9.

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