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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Sep;108(6):1781-92. doi: 10.1152/jn.00356.2012. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Reinforcing operandum: rapid and reliable learning of skilled forelimb movements by head-fixed rodents.

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1
Brain Science Institute, Tamagawa Univ., 6-1-1 Tamagawa-gakuen, Machida, Tokyo 194-8610, Japan.

Abstract

Stereotaxic head fixation plays a necessary role in current physiological techniques, such as in vivo whole cell recording and two-photon laser-scanning microscopy, that are designed to elucidate the cortical involvement in animal behaviors. In rodents, however, head fixation often inhibits learning and performance of behavioral tasks. In particular, it has been considered inappropriate for head-fixed rodents to be operantly conditioned to perform skilled movements with their forelimb (e.g., lever-press task), despite the potential applicability of the task. Here we have solved this problem conceptually by integrating a lever (operandum) and a rewarding spout (reinforcer) into one ″spout-lever″ device for efficient operant learning. With this device, head-fixed rats reliably learned to perform a pull manipulation of the spout-lever with their right forelimb in response to an auditory cue signal (external-trigger trial, namely, Go trial) within several days. We also demonstrated stable whole cell recordings from motor cortex neurons while the rats were performing forelimb movements in external-trigger trials. We observed a behavior-related increase in the number of action potentials in membrane potential. In the next session, the rats, which had already learned the external-trigger trial, effortlessly performed similar spout-lever manipulation with no cue presentation (internal-trigger trial) additionally. Likewise, some of the rats learned to keep holding the spout-lever in response to another cue signal (No-go trial) in the following session, so that they mastered the Go/No-go discrimination task in one extra day. Our results verified the usefulness of spout-lever manipulation for behavioral experiments employing cutting-edge physiological techniques.

PMID:
22745461
DOI:
10.1152/jn.00356.2012
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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