Prefrontal set activity predicts rule-specific neural processing during subsequent cognitive performance.
Sakai K., Passingham RE.
Prefrontal neurons have been shown to represent task rules. Here we show the mechanisms by which the rule-selective activity in the prefrontal cortex influences subsequent cognitive performance based on that rule. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we found that the frontopolar cortex interacted with posterior areas differently depending on whether subjects were going to perform a phonological or semantic task. Moreover, we found that the sustained "set" activity in this region predicted the activity that could be recorded in the posterior areas during the performance, as well as the speed of that performance. We argue that the prefrontal set activity does not reflect simple maintenance of the task rules but the process of implementing the rule for subsequent cognitive performance and that this is done through rule-selective interactions with areas involved in execution of the tasks.