We tested whether social signal processing in more traditional, head-restrained contexts is representative of the putative natural analog – social communication – by comparing responses to vocalizations within individual neurons in marmoset prefrontal cortex (PFC) across a series of behavioral contexts ranging from traditional to naturalistic. Although vocalization responsive neurons were evident in all contexts, cross-context consistency was notably limited. A response to these social signals when subjects were head-restrained was not predictive of a comparable neural response to the identical vocalizations during natural communication, even within the same neuron. Neural activity at the population level followed a similar pattern, as PFC activity could be reliably decoded for the context in which vocalizations were heard. This suggests that neural representations of social signals in primate PFC are not static, but highly flexible and likely reflect how nuances of the dynamic behavioral contexts affect the perception of these signals and what they communicate.
Behavioral context affects social signal representations within single primate prefrontal cortex neurons Vladimir Jovanovic, Adam R. Fishbein, Lisa de la Mothe, Kuo-Fen Lee, Cory T. Miller bioRxiv 2021.11.01.466818; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.01.466818 Now published in Neuron doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.01.020
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