Interval timing and the encoding of signal duration by ensembles of cortical and striatal neurons

Behav Neurosci. 2003 Aug;117(4):760-73. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.117.4.760.


This study investigated the firing patterns of striatal and cortical neurons in rats in a temporal generalization task. Striatal and cortical ensembles were recorded in rats trained to lever press at 2 possible criterion durations (10 s or 40 s from tone onset). Twenty-two percent of striatal and 15% of cortical cells had temporally specific modulations in their firing rate, firing at a significantly different rate around 10 s compared with 40 s. On 80% of trials, a post hoc analysis of the trial-by-trial consistency of the firing rates of an ensemble of neurons predicted whether a spike train came from a time window around 10 s versus around 40 s. Results suggest that striatal and cortical neurons encode specific durations in their firing rate and thereby serve as components of a neural circuit used to represent duration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Perception*