Matching Patterns of Activity in Primate Prefrontal Area 8a and Parietal Area 7ip Neurons During a Spatial Working MemoryTask

Journal of Neurophysiology - 1998-06-01Chafee M, Goldman-Rakic PS10.1152/jn.1998.79.6.2919
Matching patterns of activity in primate prefrontal area 8a and parietal area 7ip neurons during a spatial working memory task. J. Neurophysiol. 79: 2919-2940, 1998. Single-unit recording studies of posterior parietal neurons have indicated a similarity of neuronal activation to that observed in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in relation to performance of delayed saccade tasks. A key issue addressed in the present study is whether the different classes of neuronal activity observed in these tasks are encountered more frequently in one or the other area or otherwise exhibit region-specific properties. The present study is the first to directly compare these patterns of neuronal activity by alternately recording from parietal area 7ip and prefrontal area 8a, under the identical behavioral conditions, within the same hemisphere of two monkeys performing an oculomotor delayed response task. The firing rate of 222 posterior parietal and 235 prefrontal neurons significantly changed during the cue, delay, and/or saccade periods of the task. Neuronal responses in the two areas could be distinguished only by subtle differences in their incidence and timing. Thus neurons responding to the cue appeared earliest and were more frequent among the task-related neurons within parietal cortex, whereas neurons exhibiting delay-period activity accounted for a larger proportion of task-related neurons in prefrontal cortex. Otherwise, the task-related neuronal activities were remarkably similar. Cue period activity in prefrontal and parietal cortex exhibited comparable spatial tuning and temporal duration characteristics, taking the form of phasic, tonic, or combined phasic/tonic excitation in both cortical populations. Neurons in both cortical areas exhibited sustained activity during the delay period with nearly identical spatial tuning. The various patterns of delay-period activity-tonic, increasing or decreasing, alone or in combination with greater activation during cue and/or saccade periods-likewise were distributed to both cortical areas. Finally, similarities in the two populations extended to the proportion and spatial tuning of presaccadic and postsaccadic neuronal activity occurring in relation to the memory-guided saccade. The present findings support and extend evidence for a faithful duplication of receptive field properties and virtually every other dimension of task-related activity observed when parietal and prefrontal cortex are recruited to a common task. This striking similarity attests to the principal that information shared by a prefrontal region and a sensory association area with which it is connected is domain specific and not subject to hierarchical elaboration, as is evident at earlier stages of visuospatial processing.