Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ability to use abstract rules or principles allows behavior to generalize from specific circumstances. We have previously shown that such rules are encoded in the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and premotor cortex (PMC). Here, we extend these investigations to two other areas directly connected with the PFC and the PMC, the inferior temporal cortex (ITC) and the dorsal striatum (STR). Monkeys were trained to use two abstract rules: “same” or “different”. They had to either hold or release a lever, depending on whether two successively presented pictures were the same or different, and depending on which rule was in effect. The rules and the behavioral responses were reflected most strongly and, on average, tended to be earlier in the PMC followed by the PFC and then the STR; few neurons in the ITC reflected the rules or the actions. By contrast, perceptual information (the identity of the pictures used as sample and test stimuli) was encoded more strongly and earlier in the ITC, followed by the PFC; they had weak, if any, effects on neural activity in the PMC and STR. These findings are discussed in the context of the anatomy and posited functions of these areas.