Selective corticostriatal plasticity during acquisition of an auditory discrimination task

http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2014/10/08/010066

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Perceptual decisions are based on the activity of sensory cortical neurons, but how organisms learn to transform this activity into appropriate actions remains unknown. Projections from the auditory cortex to the auditory striatum carry information that drives decisions in an auditory frequency discrimination task1. To assess the role of these projections in learning, we developed a Channelrhodopsin-2-based assay to selectively probe for synaptic plasticity associated with corticostriatal neurons representing different frequencies. Here we report that learning this auditory discrimination preferentially potentiates corticostriatal synapses from neurons representing either high or low frequencies, depending on reward contingencies. We observed frequency-dependent corticostriatal potentiation in vivo over the course of training, and in vitro in striatal brain slices. Our findings suggest a model in which selective potentiation of inputs representing different components of a sensory stimulus enables the learned transformation of sensory input into actions.
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