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J Neurophysiol. 2004 May;91(5):2259-72. Epub 2004 Jan 21.

Neuronal activity in the rodent dorsal striatum in sequential navigation: separation of spatial and reward responses on the multiple T task.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


The striatum plays an important role in "habitual" learning and memory and has been hypothesized to implement a reinforcement-learning algorithm to select actions to perform given the current sensory input. Many experimental approaches to striatal activity have made use of temporally structured tasks, which imply that the striatal representation is temporal. To test this assumption, we recorded neurons in the dorsal striatum of rats running a sequential navigation task: the multiple T maze. Rats navigated a sequence of four T maze turns to receive food rewards delivered in two locations. The responses of neurons that fired phasically were examined. Task-responsive phasic neurons were active as rats ran on the maze (maze-responsive) or during reward receipt (reward-responsive). Neither maze- nor reward-responsive neurons encoded simple motor commands: maze-responses were not well correlated with the shape of the rat's path and most reward-responsive neurons did not fire at similar rates at both food-delivery sites. Maze-responsive neurons were active at one or more locations on the maze, but these responses did not cluster at spatial landmarks such as turns. Across sessions the activity of maze-responsive neurons was highly correlated when rats ran the same maze. Maze-responses encoded the location of the rat on the maze and imply a spatial representation in the striatum in a task with prominent spatial demands. Maze-responsive and reward-responsive neurons were two separate populations, suggesting a divergence in striatal information processing of navigation and reward.

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