Striosomes were discovered several decades ago as neurochemically identified zones in the striatum, yet technical hurdles have hampered the study of the functions of these striatal compartments. Here we used 2-photon calcium imaging in neuronal birthdate-labeled Mash1-CreER;Ai14 mice to image simultaneously the activity of striosomal and matrix neurons as mice performed an auditory conditioning task. With this method, we identified circumscribed zones of tdTomato-labeled neuropil that correspond to striosomes as verified immunohistochemically. Neurons in both striosomes and matrix responded to reward-predicting cues and were active during or after consummatory licking. However, we found quantitative differences in response strength: striosomal neurons fired more to reward-predicting cues and encoded more information about expected outcome as mice learned the task, whereas matrix neurons were more strongly modulated by recent reward history. These findings open the possibility of harnessing in vivo imaging to determine the contributions of striosomes and matrix to striatal circuit function.
Keywords: 2-photon imaging; basal ganglia; mouse; neuroscience; reinforcement learning; striatum; striosome.