Learning a tactile sequence induces selectivity to action decisions and outcomes in the mouse somatosensory cortex

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
M. R. BaleMiguel Maravall


Sequential temporal ordering and patterning are key features of natural signals used by the brain to decode stimuli and perceive them as sensory objects. To explore how cortical neuronal activity underpins sequence recognition, we developed a task in which mice distinguished between tactile 'words' constructed from distinct vibrations delivered to the whiskers, assembled in different orders. Animals licked to report the presence of the target sequence. Mice could respond to the earliest possible cues allowing discrimination, effectively solving the task as a 'detection of change' problem, but enhanced their performance when deliberating for longer. Optogenetic inactivation showed that both primary somatosensory 'barrel' cortex (S1bf) and secondary somatosensory cortex were necessary for sequence recognition. Two-photon imaging of calcium activity in S1bf layer 2/3 revealed that, in well-trained animals, neurons had heterogeneous selectivity to multiple task variables including not just sensory input but also the animal's action decision and the trial outcome (presence or absence of a predicted reward). A large proportion of neurons were activated preceding goal-directed licking, thus reflecting the animal's learnt response to t...Continue Reading

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