The main focus of our research is to understand the functional organization of the prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain takes up about a third of the human cortex and comprises about 18 anatomically distinct sub-regions, yet we have little idea as to what these sub-regions do and how they contribute to prefrontal functions. People with damage to the prefrontal cortex lead extremely disorganized lives and have difficulty planning even simple activities. Our research aims to understand the computations that prefrontal neurons perform that enable us to organize our behavior efficiently. We achieve this by combining sophisticated behavioral methods with techniques for recording the electrical activity of multiple populations of prefrontal neurons. Current questions being investigated include: How does the prefrontal cortex prioritize behavior? What are the neuronal mechanisms that relate goals and sub-goals? How do we learn what the optimal behavior is in a given situation?
More up-to-date information about our research can be found at our lab website: www.wallislab.org
Wallis, J.D. and Kennerley, S.W. (2010) Heterogeneous value signals in prefrontal cortex. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 20, 191-8.
Kennerley, S.W., Dahmubed, A.F., Lara, A.H. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Neurons in the frontal lobe encode the value of multiple decision variables. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 1162-78.
Kennerley, S.W. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Encoding of reward and space during a working memory task in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate sulcus. Journal of Neurophysiology, 29, 3352-64.
Kennerley, S.W. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Evaluating choices by single neurons in the frontal lobe: outcome value encoded across multiple decision variables. European Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 2061-2073. (Featured article. Commentary: Walton, M.E.)
Kennerley, S.W. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Reward-dependent modulation of working memory in lateral prefrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 3259-3270.
Lara, A.H., Kennerley, S.W. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Encoding of gustatory working memory by orbitofrontal neurons. Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 765-774.
Luk, C. and Wallis, J.D. (2009) Dynamic encoding of responses and outcomes by neurons in medial prefrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 7426-7539.