Origins of choice-related activity in mouse somatosensory cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2016 Jan;19(1):127-34. doi: 10.1038/nn.4183. Epub 2015 Dec 7.


During perceptual decisions about faint or ambiguous sensory stimuli, even identical stimuli can produce different choices. Spike trains from sensory cortex neurons can predict trial-to-trial variability in choice. Choice-related spiking is widely studied as a way to link cortical activity to perception, but its origins remain unclear. Using imaging and electrophysiology, we found that mouse primary somatosensory cortex neurons showed robust choice-related activity during a tactile detection task. Spike trains from primary mechanoreceptive neurons did not predict choices about identical stimuli. Spike trains from thalamic relay neurons showed highly transient, weak choice-related activity. Intracellular recordings in cortex revealed a prolonged choice-related depolarization in most neurons that was not accounted for by feed-forward thalamic input. Top-down axons projecting from secondary to primary somatosensory cortex signaled choice. An intracellular measure of stimulus sensitivity determined which neurons converted choice-related depolarization into spiking. Our results reveal how choice-related spiking emerges across neural circuits and within single neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Vibrissae