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J Neurosci. 2001 Oct 1;21(19):7804-14.

Role of tonically active neurons in primate caudate in reward-oriented saccadic eye movement.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Juntendo University, School of Medicine, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan.


Recent studies have suggested that the basal ganglia are essential for reward-oriented behavior. A popular proposal is that the interaction between sensorimotor and reward-related signals occurs in the striatal projection neurons. However, the role of interneurons remains unclear. Using the one-direction-rewarded version of the memory-guided saccade task (1DR), we examined the activity of tonically active neurons (TANs), presumed cholinergic interneurons, in the caudate. Many TANs (73/155, 47.1%) responded, usually with a pause, to a visual cue that indicated both the saccade goal and the presence or absence of reward. For most TANs (44/73, 60.3%), the response was spatially selective (contralateral dominant), but was not modulated by the reward significance. TANs are thus distinct from caudate projection neurons, which have responses to the cue that are both spatially selective and reward contingent, and from midbrain dopamine neurons, which have cue responses that are spatially nonselective and reward contingent. TANs were nonetheless sensitive to the reward schedule: in the all-directions-rewarded version (ADR) compared with 1DR, the cue responses of TANs were smaller, less frequent, and less spatially selective. In 1DR, it would first be detected that reward is not given regularly, and this process would then promote discrimination of individual stimuli in relation to reward. We propose that TANs would contribute to the detection of the context that requires discrimination, whereas dopamine neurons would contribute to the stimulus discrimination. These features of TANs might be explained by their cytoarchitecture, namely, as large aspiny neurons.

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