Basal forebrain dynamics during a tactile discrimination task.
The nucleus basalis (NB) is a cholinergic neuromodulatory structure that projects liberally to the entire cortical mantle and regulates information processing in all cortical layers. Here, we recorded activity from populations of single units in the NB as rats performed a whisker-dependent tactile discrimination task. Over 80% of neurons responded with significant modulation in at least one phase of the task. Such activity started before stimulus onset and continued for seconds after reward delivery. Firing rates monotonically increased with reward magnitude during the task, suggesting that NB neurons are not indicating the absolute deviation from expected reward amounts. Individual neurons also encoded significant amounts of information about stimulus identity. Such robust coding was not present when the same stimuli were delivered to lightly anesthetized animals, suggesting that the NB neurons contain a sensorimotor, rather than purely sensory or motor, representation of the environment. Overall, these results support the hypothesis that neurons in the NB provide a value-laden representation of the sensorimotor state of the animal as it engages in significant behavioral tasks.
Thomson, E; Lou, J; Sylvester, K; McDonough, A; Tica, S; Nicolelis, MA
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