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An ensemble code in medial prefrontal cortex links prior events to outcomes during learning

Maggi, Silvia; Peyrache, Adrien; Humphries, Mark D.


Anne Mclaren Research Fellowship

Adrien Peyrache

Professor of Computational Neuroscience


The prefrontal cortex is implicated in learning the rules of an environment through trial and error. But it is unclear how such learning is related to the prefrontal cortex’s role in short-term memory. Here we ask if the encoding of short-term memory in prefrontal cortex is used by rats learning decision rules in a Y-maze task. We find that a similar pattern of neural ensemble activity is selectively recalled after reinforcement for a correct decision. This reinforcement-selective recall only reliably occurs immediately before the abrupt behavioural transitions indicating successful learning of the current rule, and fades quickly thereafter. We could simultaneously decode multiple, retrospective task events from the ensemble activity, suggesting the recalled ensemble activity has multiplexed encoding of prior events. Our results suggest that successful trial-and-error learning is dependent on reinforcement tagging the relevant features of the environment to maintain in prefrontal cortex short-term memory.


Maggi, S., Peyrache, A., & Humphries, M. D. (2018). An ensemble code in medial prefrontal cortex links prior events to outcomes during learning. Nature Communications, 9(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 10, 2018
Publication Date Jun 7, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 20, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 20, 2018
Journal Nature Communications
Electronic ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 1
Article Number 2204
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:


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