"Dynamics of Prefrontal Computations During Decision-Making"
A major challenge to understanding the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive processes is that these processes cannot be directly observed, but rather must be inferred from behavioral measures. Furthermore, there could be considerable variability in these processes from one iteration to the next. Because neuronal responses are inherently stochastic, studies of cognitive processes typically average activity across many repeated trials. However, when the dynamics of those processes vary, this approach can obscure critical mechanistic details. In the first part of my talk, I will describe recent studies in my lab which have uncovered the dynamics of decision-making in orbitofrontal cortex with single trial resolution by leveraging the power of decoding ensemble activity by recording from many orbitofrontal neurons simultaneously. During individual choices, neural representations alternate between states associated with each available option, as if the network were considering them in turn. In the second part of my talk, I will discuss the relationship between dynamics at different neural scales, specifically single neurons and field potentials, and the implication that this has for the interpretation of macro-level measures of neural activity, such as fMRI and EEG.