Cortical State Fluctuations during Sensory Decision Making

Curr Biol. 2020 Dec 21;30(24):4944-4955.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.09.067. Epub 2020 Oct 22.


In many behavioral tasks, cortex enters a desynchronized state where low-frequency fluctuations in population activity are suppressed. The precise behavioral correlates of desynchronization and its global organization are unclear. One hypothesis holds that desynchronization enhances stimulus coding in the relevant sensory cortex. Another hypothesis holds that desynchronization reflects global arousal, such as task engagement. Here, we trained mice on tasks where task engagement could be distinguished from sensory accuracy. Using widefield calcium imaging, we found that performance-related desynchronization was global and correlated better with engagement than with accuracy. Consistent with this link between desynchronization and engagement, rewards had a long-lasting desynchronizing effect. To determine whether engagement-related state changes depended on the relevant sensory modality, we trained mice on visual and auditory tasks and found that in both cases desynchronization was global, including regions such as somatomotor cortex. We conclude that variations in low-frequency fluctuations are predominately global and related to task engagement.

Keywords: cortical states; decision making; sensory processing; widefield imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology
  • Auditory Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Optical Imaging
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reward
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*