A thalamocortical top-down circuit for associative memory

Science. 2020 Nov 13;370(6518):844-848. doi: 10.1126/science.abc2399.


The sensory neocortex is a critical substrate for memory. Despite its strong connection with the thalamus, the role of direct thalamocortical communication in memory remains elusive. We performed chronic in vivo two-photon calcium imaging of thalamic synapses in mouse auditory cortex layer 1, a major locus of cortical associations. Combined with optogenetics, viral tracing, whole-cell recording, and computational modeling, we find that the higher-order thalamus is required for associative learning and transmits memory-related information that closely correlates with acquired behavioral relevance. In turn, these signals are tightly and dynamically controlled by local presynaptic inhibition. Our results not only identify the higher-order thalamus as a highly plastic source of cortical top-down information but also reveal a level of computational flexibility in layer 1 that goes far beyond hard-wired connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Optogenetics
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology*