Distributed functions of prefrontal and parietal cortices during sequential categorical decisions
Comparing sequential stimuli is crucial for guiding complex behaviors. To understand mechanisms underlying sequential decisions, we compared neuronal responses in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the lateral intraparietal (LIP), and medial intraparietal (MIP) areas in monkeys trained to decide whether sequentially presented stimuli were from matching (M) or nonmatching (NM) categories. We found that PFC leads M/NM decisions, whereas LIP and MIP appear more involved in stimulus evaluation and motor planning, respectively. Compared to LIP, PFC showed greater nonlinear integration of currently visible and remembered stimuli, which correlated with the monkeys ’ M/NM decisions. Furthermore, multi-module recurrent networks trained on the same task exhibited key features of PFC and LIP encoding, including nonlinear integration in the PFC-like module, which was causally involved in the networks’ decisions. Network analysis found that nonlinear units have stronger and more widespread connections with input, output, and within-area units, indicating putative circuit-level mechanisms for sequential decisions.