Comparing sequential events is crucial for solving many behavioral tasks. To understand the neuronal mechanisms underlying sequential decisions, we compared activity in prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the lateral and medial intra-parietal (LIP and MIP) areas in monkeys trained to decide whether sequentially presented stimuli were from matching (M) or nonmatching (NM) categories. We found that PFC leads the M/NM decision process relying on nonlinear neuronal integration of sensory and mnemonic information, whereas LIP and MIP are more involved in sensory evaluation and motor planning, respectively. Furthermore, multi-module recurrent neural networks trained on the same task exhibited the key features of PFC and LIP encoding, including nonlinear integrative encoding in the PFC-like module which was crucial for M/NM decisions. Together, our results illuminate the relative functions of LIP, PFC, and MIP in sensory, cognitive and motor functions, and suggest that nonlinear integration in PFC is important for mediating sequential decisions.
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