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Post-decision processing in primate prefrontal cortex influences subsequent choices on an auditory decision-making task

  1. Joji Tsunada
  2. Yale Cohen  Is a corresponding author
  3. Joshua I Gold
  1. University of Pennsylvania, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 11
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e46770 doi: 10.7554/eLife.46770


Perceptual decisions do not occur in isolation but instead reflect ongoing evaluation and adjustment processes that can affect future decisions. However, the neuronal substrates of these across-decision processes are not well understood, particularly for auditory decisions. We measured and manipulated the activity of choice-selective neurons in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) while monkeys made decisions about the frequency content of noisy auditory stimuli. As the decision was being formed, vlPFC activity was not modulated strongly by the task. However, after decision commitment, vlPFC population activity encoded the sensory evidence, choice, and outcome of the current trial and predicted subject-specific choice biases on the subsequent trial. Consistent with these patterns of neuronal activity, electrical microstimulation in vlPFC tended to affect the subsequent, but not current, decision. Thus, distributed post-commitment representations of graded decision-related information in prefrontal cortex can play a causal role in evaluating past decisions and biasing subsequent ones.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Joji Tsunada

    Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  2. Yale Cohen

    Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-0830-5162
  3. Joshua I Gold

    Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    Competing interests
    Joshua I Gold, Reviewing editor, eLife.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6018-0483


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (DC009224)

  • Yale Cohen

National Eye Institute (MH115557)

  • Joshua I Gold

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (DC012961)

  • Yale Cohen

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: The University of Pennsylvania Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee approved all of the experimental protocols, which were conducted under protocol 804699.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Timothy D Griffiths, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: March 12, 2019
  2. Accepted: June 5, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 6, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: June 14, 2019 (version 2)


© 2019, Tsunada et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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