Neuromodulation of Prefrontal Cortex in Non-Human Primates by Dopaminergic Receptors during Rule-Guided Flexible Behavior and Cognitive Control

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Frontiers in neural circuits



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The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is indispensable for several higher-order cognitive and executive capacities of primates, including representation of salient stimuli in working memory (WM), maintenance of cognitive task set, inhibition of inappropriate responses and rule-guided flexible behavior. PFC networks are subject to robust neuromodulation from ascending catecholaminergic systems. Disruption of these systems in PFC has been implicated in cognitive deficits associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders. Over the past four decades, a considerable body of work has examined the influence of dopamine on macaque PFC activity representing spatial WM. There has also been burgeoning interest in neuromodulation of PFC circuits involved in other cognitive functions of PFC, including representation of rules to guide flexible behavior. Here, we review recent neuropharmacological investigations conducted in our laboratory and others of the role of PFC dopamine receptors in regulating rule-guided behavior in non-human primates. Employing iontophoresis, we examined the effects of local manipulation of dopaminergic subtypes on neuronal activity during performance of rule-guided pro- and antisaccades, an experimental paradigm sensitive to PFC integrity, wherein deficits in performance are reliably observed in many neuropsychiatric disorders. We found dissociable effects of dopamine receptors on neuronal activity for rule representation and oculomotor responses and discuss these findings in the context of prior studies that have examined the role of dopamine in spatial delayed response tasks, attention, target selection, abstract rules, visuomotor learning and reward. The findings we describe here highlight the common features, as well as heterogeneity and context dependence of dopaminergic neuromodulation in regulating the efficacy of cognitive functions of PFC in health and disease.