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Prefrontal Cortical Microcircuits for Cognitive Control

Ioan Opris


The prefrontal cortex of the primate brain has a modular architecture based on the aggregation of neurons in minicolumnar arrangements having afferent and efferent connections distributed across many brain regions to represent, select and/or maintain behavioral goals and executive commands. Prefrontal cortical microcircuits are assumed to play a key role in the integration of signals across cortical layers and the selection of executive variables. Recent research suggests that cognitive abilities emerge from corticocortical interactions between interlaminar prefrontal cortical microcircuits, while their disruption are involved in a broad spectrum of neurologic and psychiatric disorders like autism, and drug addiction. Based on recent technological progress it has been demonstrated that microstimulation of infragranular cortical layers with patterns of microcurrents derived from supragranular layers led to an increase in cognitive performance. This suggests that interlaminar microcircuits are playing a causal role improving cognitive performance. The objective of this paper is to shed light on the new interest in cortical modularity coming from the impressive progress in understanding anatomical, physiological and pathological facets of cortical microcircuits and the promise of neural prosthetics for patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders.

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