The noradrenergic locus ceruleus (LC) system has been implicated in several behavioral functions, most notably, response to salient sensory events. Here, we provide new evidence indicating a role in the execution of responses associated with simple decisions. We examined impulse activity of monkey LC neurons during performance of a forced-choice discrimination task. The timing of LC activity more closely tracked behavioral responses than stimulus presentation. LC neurons were phasically activated preceding behavioral responses for both correct and incorrect identifications but were not activated by stimuli that failed to elicit lever responses nor by nontask-related lever movements. We hypothesize that the LC responds to the outcome of task-related decision processes, facilitating their influence on overt behavior. This role of the LC in regulating the behavioral outcome of decisional processes contrasts with more traditional views of LC responses as primarily related to sensory processes.
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