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Reward association enhances stimulus-specific representations in primary visual cortex

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1866-1880.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume30
Issue number10
Early online date2 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Apr 2020

Abstract

The potential for neuronal representations of external stimuli to be modified by previous experience is critical for efficient sensory processing and improved behavioral outcomes. To investigate how repeated exposure to a visual stimulus affects its representation in mouse primary visual cortex (V1), we performed two-photon calcium imaging of layer 2/3 neurons and assessed responses before, during, and after the presentation of a repetitive stimulus over 5 consecutive days. We found a stimulus-specific enhancement of the neuronal representation of the repetitively presented stimulus when it was associated with a reward. This was observed both after mice actively learned a rewarded task and when the reward was randomly received. Stimulus-specific enhanced representation resulted both from neurons gaining selectivity and from increased response reliability in previously selective neurons. In the absence of reward, there was either no change in stimulus representation or a decreased representation when the stimulus was viewed at a fixed temporal frequency. Pairing a second stimulus with a reward led to a similar enhanced representation and increased discriminability between the equally rewarded stimuli. Single-neuron responses showed that separate subpopulations discriminated between the two rewarded stimuli depending on whether the stimuli were displayed in a virtual environment or viewed on a single screen. We suggest that reward-associated responses enable the generalization of enhanced stimulus representation across these V1 subpopulations. We propose that this dynamic regulation of visual processing based on the behavioral relevance of sensory input ultimately enhances and stabilizes the representation of task-relevant features while suppressing responses to non-relevant stimuli.

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