Population coding of strategic variables during foraging in freely moving macaques

Neda Shahidi, Melissa Franch, Arun Parajuli, Paul Schrater, Anthony Wright, Xaq Pitkow, Valentin Dragoi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Until now, it has been difficult to examine the neural bases of foraging in naturalistic environments because previous approaches have relied on restrained animals performing trial-based foraging tasks. Here we allowed unrestrained monkeys to freely interact with concurrent reward options while we wirelessly recorded population activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The animals decided when and where to forage based on whether their prediction of reward was fulfilled or violated. This prediction was not solely based on a history of reward delivery, but also on the understanding that waiting longer improves the chance of reward. The task variables were continuously represented in a subspace of the high-dimensional population activity, and this compressed representation predicted the animal’s subsequent choices better than the true task variables and as well as the raw neural activity. Our results indicate that monkeys’ foraging strategies are based on a cortical model of reward dynamics as animals freely explore their environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-781
Number of pages10
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024

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Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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