Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
A common denominator for many cognitive disorders of human brain is the disruption of neural activity within pFC, whose structural basis is primarily interlaminar (columnar) microcircuits or “minicolumns.” The importance of this brain region for executive decision-making has been well documented; however, because of technological constraints, the minicolumnar basis is not well understood. Here, via implementation of a unique conformal multielectrode recording array, the role of interlaminar pFC minicolumns in the executive control of task-related target selection is demonstrated in nonhuman primates performing a visuomotor DMS task. The results reveal target-specific, interlaminar correlated firing during the decision phase of the trial between multielectrode recording array-isolated minicolumnar pairs of neurons located in parallel in layers 2/3 and layer 5 of pFC. The functional significance of individual pFC minicolumns (separated by 40 μm) was shown by reduced correlated firing between cell pairs within single minicolumns on error trials with inappropriate target selection. To further demonstrate dependence on performance, a task-disrupting drug (cocaine) was administered in the middle of the session, which also reduced interlaminar firing in minicolumns that fired appropriately in the early (nondrug) portion of the session. The results provide a direct demonstration of task-specific, real-time columnar processing in pFC indicating the role of this type of microcircuit in executive control of decision-making in primate brain.