Mediodorsal Thalamus Contributes to the Timing of Instrumental Actions.
The perception of time is critical to adaptive behavior. While prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia have been implicated in interval timing in the seconds to minutes range, little is known about the role of the mediodorsal thalamus (MD), which is a key component of the limbic cortico-basal ganglia-thalamocortical loop. In this study, we tested the role of the MD in timing, using an operant temporal production task in male mice. In this task, that the expected timing of available rewards is indicated by lever pressing. Inactivation of the MD with muscimol produced rightward shifts in peak pressing on probe trials as well as increases in peak spread, thus significantly altering both temporal accuracy and precision. Optogenetic inhibition of glutamatergic projection neurons in the MD also resulted in similar changes in timing. The observed effects were found to be independent of significant changes in movement. Our findings suggest that the MD is a critical component of the neural circuit for interval timing, without playing a direct role in regulating ongoing performance.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The mediodorsal nucleus (MD) of the thalamus is strongly connected with the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia, areas which have been implicated in interval timing. Previous work has shown that the MD contributes to working memory and learning of action-outcome contingencies, but its role in behavioral timing is poorly understood. Using an operant temporal production task, we showed that inactivation of the MD significantly impaired timing behavior.
Lusk, N; Meck, WH; Yin, HH
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