We examined neuronal activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex of monkeys performing a path-planning task in a maze that required the planning of actions in multiple steps. The animals received an instruction that prompted them to prepare to move a cursor in the maze stepwise from a starting position to a goal position by operating manipulanda with either arm. During a delay period in which the animal prepared to start the first of three cursor movements to approach the pre-instructed goal, we identified two types of neuronal activity: the first type reflected the position within the maze to which the animal intended to move the cursor as an initial step (an immediate goal) and the second type reflected the position within the maze that was to be captured as a final goal. Neither type reflected motor responses. We propose that these two types of neuronal activity are neuronal correlates that represent immediate and ultimate behavioral goals. This finding implicates the prefrontal cortex in governing goal-oriented sequential behavior rather than sensorimotor transformation.
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