To achieve a behavioral goal in a complex environment, we must plan multiple steps of motor behavior. On planning a series of actions, we anticipate future events that will occur as a result of each action and mentally organize the temporal sequence of events. To investigate the involvement of the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) in such multistep planning, we examined neuronal activity in the PFC of monkeys performing a maze task that required the planning of stepwise cursor movements to reach a goal. During the preparatory period, PFC neurons reflected each of all forthcoming cursor movements, rather than arm movements. In contrast, in the primary motor cortex, most neuronal activity reflected arm movements but little of cursor movements during the preparatory period, as well as during movement execution. Our data suggest that the PFC is involved primarily in planning multiple future events that occur as a consequence of behavioral actions.
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