Neurons recorded in behaving animals often do not discernibly respond to sensory input and are not overtly task-modulated. These non-classically responsive neurons are difficult to interpret and are typically neglected from analysis, confounding attempts to connect neural activity to perception and behavior. Here, we describe a trial-by-trial, spike-timing-based algorithm to reveal the coding capacities of these neurons in auditory and frontal cortex of behaving rats. Classically responsive and non-classically responsive cells contained significant information about sensory stimuli and behavioral decisions. Stimulus category was more accurately represented in frontal cortex than auditory cortex, via ensembles of non-classically responsive cells coordinating the behavioral meaning of spike timings on correct but not error trials. This unbiased approach allows the contribution of all recorded neurons - particularly those without obvious task-related, trial-averaged firing rate modulation - to be assessed for behavioral relevance on single trials.
Keywords: behavior; computational biology; cortex; decoding; neuroscience; rat; systems biology.
© 2019, Insanally et al.