Humans and animals must struggle in order to survive. Since resources are usually limited, competing successfully is vitally important. However, the neuronal mechanisms underlying competitive behavior have been poorly studied. Hosokawa and Watanabe (J Neurosci 32(22):7662-7671, 2012) examined whether neurons in the prefrontal cortex showed response sensitivity related to competition. Monkeys were trained to play a video shooting game, either competing with another monkey or the computer, or playing alone without a rival. The monkeys' motivation level was elevated in the competitive games. Prefrontal neurons showed higher outcome-related activity in the competitive than in the noncompetitive games. A group of prefrontal neurons showed differential activities depending on whether the rival was another monkey or the computer. Furthermore, Hosokawa and Watanabe (Front Neurosci 9:165, 2015) examined the monkey's behavior and prefrontal neuronal activity in competitive situations with unordinary performancereward contingencies, where both the winner and loser, or neither of them, got a reward (egalitarian outcome conditions). The monkey's behavioral performance greatly deteriorated in trials with these outcome conditions. Prefrontal neurons showed activities that reflected the performance-reward contingency. Some of them showed reward-related activity in the normal, but not in the egalitarian outcome conditions, even though the same reward was given to the animal. These results indicate that the prefrontal cortex may play an important role in monitoring the current context such as the rival's identity (who is the rival) and performancereward contingency (whether winning a competition leads to a reward or not) and integrating the performance outcome (win/loss) with the current context for better performance in competition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)