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Nat Neurosci. 2016 Jan;19(1):127-34. doi: 10.1038/nn.4183. Epub 2015 Dec 7.

Origins of choice-related activity in mouse somatosensory cortex.

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The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience and Brain Science Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


During perceptual decisions about faint or ambiguous sensory stimuli, even identical stimuli can produce different choices. Spike trains from sensory cortex neurons can predict trial-to-trial variability in choice. Choice-related spiking is widely studied as a way to link cortical activity to perception, but its origins remain unclear. Using imaging and electrophysiology, we found that mouse primary somatosensory cortex neurons showed robust choice-related activity during a tactile detection task. Spike trains from primary mechanoreceptive neurons did not predict choices about identical stimuli. Spike trains from thalamic relay neurons showed highly transient, weak choice-related activity. Intracellular recordings in cortex revealed a prolonged choice-related depolarization in most neurons that was not accounted for by feed-forward thalamic input. Top-down axons projecting from secondary to primary somatosensory cortex signaled choice. An intracellular measure of stimulus sensitivity determined which neurons converted choice-related depolarization into spiking. Our results reveal how choice-related spiking emerges across neural circuits and within single neurons.

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