Selective corticostriatal plasticity during acquisition of an auditory discrimination task

Nature. 2015 May 21;521(7552):348-51. doi: 10.1038/nature14225. Epub 2015 Mar 2.


Perceptual decisions are based on the activity of sensory cortical neurons, but how organisms learn to transform this activity into appropriate actions remains unknown. Projections from the auditory cortex to the auditory striatum carry information that drives decisions in an auditory frequency discrimination task. To assess the role of these projections in learning, we developed a channelrhodopsin-2-based assay to probe selectively for synaptic plasticity associated with corticostriatal neurons representing different frequencies. Here we report that learning this auditory discrimination preferentially potentiates corticostriatal synapses from neurons representing either high or low frequencies, depending on reward contingencies. We observe frequency-dependent corticostriatal potentiation in vivo over the course of training, and in vitro in striatal brain slices. Our findings suggest a model in which the corticostriatal synapses made by neurons tuned to different features of the sound are selectively potentiated to enable the learned transformation of sound into action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neostriatum / cytology
  • Neostriatum / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reward
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism
  • Sound*
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Rhodopsin