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Qxd 12/1/06 11:11 AM Page 23 M E MORY 23 Miller also found that if the task only required the monkey to remember where the object was, the PFC neurons fired only for location. If the monkey needed only to recall the object’s appearance, the same neurons fired for that image. The properties of many of the cells switched back and forth depending on the job requirement, suggesting, as Fuster proposed, that PFC neurons could change their tune depending on the score. About 50 percent of the neurons were cells that encode “what-and-where” relationships.
Cohan admits. He suspected that the PFC was weighing competing representations and judging which among them to give the go-ahead signal. It was not unlike Fuster’s idea of competing systems adjudicated by the PFC. But how did the PFC “know” about this conflict in the first place, in order to attend to it and steer the neurons toward the right “goal”? That question led Cohen to a “lower” part of the prefrontal system, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC (see figure 1 on page ix) is the elephant to the neuroscientists’ blind men; everybody’s got a slightly differently take on it.
Running the model, the two found that the computer’s “ACC” did indeed detect conflict during the color-naming condition of the Stroop test, even when the model performed correctly. Tweaking the difficulty of the computer trials, it became apparent that whenever the model took longer to respond, it was because competition persisted between the alternative responses.