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Neural representation of newly instructed rule identities during early implementation trials

  1. Hannes Ruge  Is a corresponding author
  2. Theo A J Schäfer
  3. Katharina Zwosta
  4. Holger Mohr
  5. Uta Wolfensteller
  1. Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e48293 doi: 10.7554/eLife.48293

Abstract

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.

Data availability

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/

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Hannes Ruge

    Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    For correspondence
    hannes.ruge@tu-dresden.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9793-3859
  2. Theo A J Schäfer

    Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4102-559X
  3. Katharina Zwosta

    Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Holger Mohr

    Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Uta Wolfensteller

    Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB940 A2)

  • Hannes Ruge
  • Uta Wolfensteller

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB940 Z2)

  • Hannes Ruge

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

Ethics

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.

Reviewing Editor

  1. David Badre, Brown University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: May 8, 2019
  2. Accepted: November 16, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 18, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: November 29, 2019 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: December 4, 2019 (version 3)

Copyright

© 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.

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