Complex population response of dorsal putamen neurons predicts the ability to learn

Steeve Laquitaine, Camille Piron, David Abellanas, Yonatan Loewenstein, Thomas Boraud
PLoS ONE. 2013-11-14; 8(11): e80683
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080683

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Laquitaine S(1), Piron C, Abellanas D, Loewenstein Y, Boraud T.

Author information:
(1)UMR 5293, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France ; UMR 5293, CNRS,
Bordeaux, France.

Day-to-day variability in performance is a common experience. We investigated
its neural correlate by studying learning behavior of monkeys in a
two-alternative forced choice task, the two-armed bandit task. We found
substantial session-to-session variability in the monkeys’ learning behavior.
Recording the activity of single dorsal putamen neurons we uncovered a dual
function of this structure. It has been previously shown that a population of
neurons in the DLP exhibits firing activity sensitive to the reward value of
chosen actions. Here, we identify putative medium spiny neurons in the dorsal
putamen that are cue-selective and whose activity builds up with learning.
Remarkably we show that session-to-session changes in the size of this
population and in the intensity with which this population encodes
cue-selectivity is correlated with session-to-session changes in the ability to
learn the task. Moreover, at the population level, dorsal putamen activity in
the very beginning of the session is correlated with the performance at the end
of the session, thus predicting whether the monkey will have a “good” or “bad”
learning day. These results provide important insights on the neural basis of
inter-temporal performance variability.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080683
PMCID: PMC3828263
PMID: 24244706 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

Conflict of interest statement: Competing Interests: The co-author Thomas Boraud
is a PLOS ONE Editorial Board member. This does not alter our adherence to all
the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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