A cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical channel underlying short-term memory

Neuron. 2021 Nov 3;109(21):3486-3499.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.08.002. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Persistent activity underlying short-term memory encodes sensory information or instructs specific future movement and, consequently, has a crucial role in cognition. Despite extensive study, how the same set of neurons respond differentially to form selective persistent activity remains unknown. Here, we report that the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical (CBTC) circuit supports the formation of selective persistent activity in mice. Optogenetic activation or inactivation of the basal ganglia output nucleus substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr)-to-thalamus pathway biased future licking choice, without affecting licking execution. This perturbation differentially affected persistent activity in the frontal cortex and selectively modulated neural trajectory that encodes one choice but not the other. Recording showed that SNr neurons had selective persistent activity distributed across SNr, but with a hotspot in the mediolateral region. Optogenetic inactivation of the frontal cortex also differentially affected persistent activity in the SNr. Together, these results reveal a CBTC channel functioning to produce selective persistent activity underlying short-term memory.

Keywords: short-term memory, motor planning, basal ganglia, substantia nigra pars reticulata, motor cortex, motor thalamus, persistent activity, neural trajectory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pars Reticulata* / physiology
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology