By following explicit instructions, humans instantaneously get the hang of tasks they have never performed before. We used a specially calibrated multivariate analysis technique to uncover the elusive representational states during the first few implementations of arbitrary rules such as 'for coffee, press red button' following their first-time instruction. Distributed activity patterns within the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) indicated the presence of neural representations specific of individual stimulus-response (S-R) rule identities, preferentially for conditions requiring the memorization of instructed S-R rules for correct performance. Identity-specific representations were detectable starting from the first implementation trial and continued to be present across early implementation trials. The increasingly fluent application of novel rule representations was channelled through increasing cooperation between VLPFC and anterior striatum. These findings inform representational theories on how the prefrontal cortex supports behavioural flexibility specifically by enabling the ad-hoc coding of newly instructed individual rule identities during their first-time implementation.
Preprocessed single subject data and unthresholded whole-brain maps underlying the main results visualized in Fig. 4, Fig. 5, Fig. 6, Fig. 7, and Fig. 8 are publicly available here: https://osf.io/vsbx8/
Neural representation of individual rules after first-time instructionOpen Science Framework, osf.io/vsbx8/.
- Hannes Ruge
- Uta Wolfensteller
- Hannes Ruge
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: The experimental protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Technische Universität Dresden (approval identifier: EK 545122015) and conformed to the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki.All participants gave written informed consent before taking part in the experiment and were paid 10 Euros per hour for their participation or received course credit.
- David Badre, Brown University, United States
© 2019, Ruge 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.