Reward is often employed as reinforcement in behavioral paradigms but it is unclear how the visuospatial aspect of a stimulus-reward association affects the cortical representation of visual space. Using a head-fixed paradigm, we conditioned mice to associate the same visual pattern in adjacent retinotopic regions with availability and absence of reward. Time-lapse intrinsic optical signal imaging under anesthesia showed that conditioning increased the spatial separation of mesoscale cortical representations of reward predicting- and non-reward predicting stimuli. Subsequent in vivo two-photon calcium imaging revealed that this improved separation correlated with enhanced population coding for retinotopic location, specifically for the trained orientation and spatially confined to the V1 region where rewarded and non-rewarded stimulus representations bordered. These results are corroborated by conditioning-induced differences in the correlation structure of population activity. Thus, the cortical representation of visual space is sharpened as consequence of associative stimulus-reward learning while the overall retinotopic map remains unaltered.
Keywords: calcium imaging; conditioning; mouse; neuroscience; plasticity; population coding; reward; visual cortex.
© 2018, Goltstein et al.