Go/No-Go task engagement enhances population representation of target stimuli in primary auditory cortex

Nat Commun. 2018 Jun 28;9(1):2529. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04839-9.


Primary sensory cortices are classically considered to extract and represent stimulus features, while association and higher-order areas are thought to carry information about stimulus meaning. Here we show that this information can in fact be found in the neuronal population code of the primary auditory cortex (A1). A1 activity was recorded in awake ferrets while they either passively listened or actively discriminated stimuli in a range of Go/No-Go paradigms, with different sounds and reinforcements. Population-level dimensionality reduction techniques reveal that task engagement induces a shift in stimulus encoding from a sensory to a behaviorally driven representation that specifically enhances the target stimulus in all paradigms. This shift partly relies on task-engagement-induced changes in spontaneous activity. Altogether, we show that A1 population activity bears strong similarities to frontal cortex responses. These findings indicate that primary sensory cortices implement a crucial change in the structure of population activity to extract task-relevant information during behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Female
  • Ferrets
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Multifactor Dimensionality Reduction
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Wakefulness / physiology