Chapter

Prefrontal Cortex

Xiao-Jing Wang

in Handbook of Brain Microcircuits

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780195389883
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965137 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780195389883.003.0006
Prefrontal Cortex

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The prefrontal cortex is a vital cortical substrate for higher brain functions and flexible control of behavior. The functional versatility of the prefrontal cortex owns in part to its extensive input–output connections with the rest of the brain. Sufficiently strong and slow recurrent synaptic connections endow the prefrontal circuits with the ability to maintain self-sustained persistent neural activity underlying working memory, and to carry out slow time integration of information during decision-making. Excitation is balanced by inhibition mediated by several types of inhibitory interneurons, which display a different distribution in the prefrontal cortex from early sensory areas and which are important for such processes as filtering out distracting stimuli, generating competition in selective attention, or choosing among response alternatives. Therefore, whereas the prefrontal cortex may share a similar layout as other cortical areas, quantitative differences in their microcircuit properties give rise to qualitatively different functions of critical importance to cognition.

Chapter.  3787 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Development of the Nervous System

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