Neuronal motor commands, whether generating real or neuroprosthetic movements, are shaped by ongoing sensory feedback from the displacement being produced. Here we asked if cortical stimulation could provide artificial feedback during operant conditioning of cortical neurons. Simultaneous two-photon imaging and real-time optogenetic stimulation were used to train mice to activate a single neuron in motor cortex (M1), while continuous feedback of its activity level was provided by proportionally stimulating somatosensory cortex. This artificial signal was necessary to rapidly learn to increase the conditioned activity, detect correct performance, and maintain the learned behavior. Population imaging in M1 revealed that learning-related activity changes are observed in the conditioned cell only, which highlights the functional potential of individual neurons in the neocortex. Our findings demonstrate the capacity of animals to use an artificially induced cortical channel in a behaviorally relevant way and reveal the remarkable speed and specificity at which this can occur.
Keywords: artificial feedback; brain-machine interface; in cerebro learning; motor learning; neuroprosthetics; operant conditioning; optogenetic stimulation; two-photon imaging.
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