Persistent neuronal activity in human prefrontal cortex links perception and action

Matar Haller, John Case, Nathan E. Crone, Edward F. Chang, David King-Stephens, Kenneth D. Laxer, Peter B. Weber, Josef Parvizi, Robert T. Knight, Avgusta Y. Shestyuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


How do humans flexibly respond to changing environmental demands on a subsecond temporal scale? Extensive research has highlighted the key role of the prefrontal cortex in flexible decision-making and adaptive behaviour, yet the core mechanisms that translate sensory information into behaviour remain undefined. Using direct human cortical recordings, we investigated the temporal and spatial evolution of neuronal activity (indexed by the broadband gamma signal) in 16 participants while they performed a broad range of self-paced cognitive tasks. Here we describe a robust domain- and modality-independent pattern of persistent stimulus-to-response neural activation that encodes stimulus features and predicts motor output on a trial-by-trial basis with near-perfect accuracy. Observed across a distributed network of brain areas, this persistent neural activation is centred in the prefrontal cortex and is required for successful response implementation, providing a functional substrate for domain-general transformation of perception into action, critical for flexible behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-91
Number of pages12
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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