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10.12: Summary of Key Points

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    • The prefrontal cortex (PFC) encodes information in an active state through sustained neural firing, which is more flexible and rapidly updatable than using synaptic weight changes.
    • The basal ganglia (BG) drives updating (dynamic gating) of PFC active memory states, enhancing flexibility.
    • Phasic dopamine signals from midbrain nuclei have the right properties for training BG gating, by transferring reward associations earlier in time to the onset of stimuli that predict subsequent rewards.
    • The PFC influences cognitive processing elsewhere in the brain via top-down excitatory biasing, as demonstrated in the Stroop model.
    • Developmental changes in active memory can be explained in terms of stronger PFC active maintenance abilities, as demonstrated in the A-not-B model.
    • BG dynamic gating can support flexible cognitive function by dynamically encoding some information while ignore other irrelevant information, and updating the contents of active memory. The SIR and n-back models demonstrate these abilities.
    • Medial and ventral areas of PFC (orbital prefrontal cortex (OFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)) convey affective information about stimuli and actions, respectively, and are important for properly evaluating potential actions to be taken (decision making, problem solving, etc).

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