Reward-timing-dependent bidirectional modulation of cortical microcircuits during optical single-neuron operant conditioning

Nat Commun. 2014 Nov 24;5:5551. doi: 10.1038/ncomms6551.


Animals rapidly adapt to environmental change. To reveal how cortical microcircuits are rapidly reorganized when an animal recognizes novel reward contingency, we conduct two-photon calcium imaging of layer 2/3 motor cortex neurons in mice and simultaneously reinforce the activity of a single cortical neuron with water delivery. Here we show that when the target neuron is not relevant to a pre-trained forelimb movement, the mouse increases the target neuron activity and the number of rewards delivered during 15-min operant conditioning without changing forelimb movement behaviour. The reinforcement bidirectionally modulates the activity of subsets of non-target neurons, independent of distance from the target neuron. The bidirectional modulation depends on the relative timing between the reward delivery and the neuronal activity, and is recreated by pairing reward delivery and photoactivation of a subset of neurons. Reward-timing-dependent bidirectional modulation may be one of the fundamental processes in microcircuit reorganization for rapid adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Brain Waves / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward