Sequence learning induces selectivity to multiple task parameters in mouse somatosensory cortex

Bale, Michael R, Bitzidou, Malamati, Giusto, Elena, Kinghorn, Paul and Maravall, Miguel (2021) Sequence learning induces selectivity to multiple task parameters in mouse somatosensory cortex. Current Biology, 31 (3). pp. 473-485. ISSN 0960-9822

[img] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (4MB)


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 discrimination, we developed a task in which mice distinguished between tactile “word” sequences 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 responding later. Optogenetic inactivation showed that the somatosensory cortex was necessary for sequence discrimination. Two-photon imaging in layer 2/3 of the primary somatosensory “barrel” cortex (S1bf) 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 the predicted reward). Many neurons were activated preceding goal-directed licking, thus reflecting the animal’s learned action in response to the target sequence; these neurons were found as soon as mice learned to associate the rewarded sequence with licking. In contrast, learning evoked smaller changes in sensory response tuning: neurons responding to stimulus features were found in naive mice, and training did not generate neurons with enhanced temporal integration or categorical responses. Therefore, in S1bf, sequence learning results in neurons whose activity reflects the learned association between target sequence and licking rather than a refined representation of sensory features.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: barrel cortex, goal-directed, conditioning, head-fixed, two-photon, calcium, optogenetics, in vivo, whiskers, vibrissae
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Neuroscience
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2020 09:00
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2022 10:45

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update
Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Sensory sequence representation and discrimination in cortical circuitsG1975MRC-MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCILMRC Ref: MR/P00