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Prefrontal cortex has been proposed to show highly adaptive information coding, with neurons dynamically allocated to processing task-relevant information. To track this dynamic allocation in monkey prefrontal cortex, we used time-resolved measures of neural population activity in a simple case of competition between target (behaviorally critical) and nontarget objects in opposite visual hemifields. Early in processing, there were parallel responses to competing inputs, with neurons in each hemisphere dominated by the contralateral stimulus. Later, the nontarget lost control of neural activity, with emerging global control by the behaviorally critical target. The speed of transition reflected the competitive weights of different display elements, occurring most rapidly when relative behavioral significance was well established by training history. In line with adaptive coding, the results show widespread reallocation of prefrontal processing resources as an attentional focus is established.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





235 - 246


Animals, Attention, Behavior, Animal, Cues, Macaca mulatta, Male, Neurons, Photic Stimulation, Prefrontal Cortex, Reaction Time, Task Performance and Analysis