Single medial prefrontal neurons cope with error

Thomas Michelet, Bernard Bioulac, Dominique Guehl, Michel Goillandeau, Pierre Burbaud
PLoS ONE. 2009-07-17; 4(7): e6240
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006240

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Learning from mistakes is a key feature of human behavior. However, the
mechanisms underlying short-term adaptation to erroneous action are still poorly
understood. One possibility relies on the modulation of attentional systems after
an error. To explore this possibility, we have designed a Stroop-like visuo-motor
task in monkeys that favors incorrect action. Using this task, we previously
found that single neurons recorded from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were
closely tuned to behavioral performance and, more particularly, that the activity
of most neurons was biased towards the evaluation of erroneous action. Here we
describe single neurons engaged in both error detection and response alertness
processing, whose activation is closely associated with the improvement of
subsequent behavioral performance. Specifically, we show that the effect of a
warning stimulus on neuronal firing is enhanced after an erroneous response
rather than a successful one and that this outcome is correlated with an error
rate decrease. Our results suggest that the anterior cingulate cortex, which
exhibits this activity, serves as a powerful computational locus for rapid
behavioral adaptation.


Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus