To investigate the temporal relationship between synchrony in the discharge of neuron pairs and modulation of the discharge rate, we recorded the neuronal activity of the lateral prefrontal cortex of monkeys performing a behavioral task that required them to plan an immediate goal of action to attain a final goal. Information about the final goal was retrieved via visual instruction signals, whereas information about the immediate goal was generated internally. The synchrony of neuron pair discharges was analyzed separately from changes in the firing rate of individual neurons during a preparatory period. We focused on neuron pairs that exhibited a representation of the final goal followed by a representation of the immediate goal at a later stage. We found that changes in synchrony and discharge rates appeared to be complementary at different phases of the behavioral task. Synchrony was maximized during a specific phase in the preparatory period corresponding to a transitional stage when the neuronal activity representing the final goal was replaced with that representing the immediate goal. We hypothesize that the transient increase in discharge synchrony is an indication of a process that facilitates dynamic changes in the prefrontal neural circuits in order to undergo profound state changes.

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