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Nat Commun. 2018 Jun 7;9(1):2204. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04638-2.

An ensemble code in medial prefrontal cortex links prior events to outcomes during learning.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
2
Faculty of Biology, Medicine, and Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK.
3
Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, H3A 2B4, Canada.
4
School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK. mark.humphries@nottingham.ac.uk.
5
Faculty of Biology, Medicine, and Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK. mark.humphries@nottingham.ac.uk.

Abstract

The prefrontal cortex is implicated in learning the rules of an environment through trial and error. But it is unclear how such learning is related to the prefrontal cortex's role in short-term memory. Here we ask if the encoding of short-term memory in prefrontal cortex is used by rats learning decision rules in a Y-maze task. We find that a similar pattern of neural ensemble activity is selectively recalled after reinforcement for a correct decision. This reinforcement-selective recall only reliably occurs immediately before the abrupt behavioural transitions indicating successful learning of the current rule, and fades quickly thereafter. We could simultaneously decode multiple, retrospective task events from the ensemble activity, suggesting the recalled ensemble activity has multiplexed encoding of prior events. Our results suggest that successful trial-and-error learning is dependent on reinforcement tagging the relevant features of the environment to maintain in prefrontal cortex short-term memory.

PMID:
29880806
PMCID:
PMC5992197
DOI:
10.1038/s41467-018-04638-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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