Global, Low-Amplitude Cortical State Predicts Response Outcomes in a Selective Detection Task in Mice

Cereb Cortex. 2022 Apr 20;32(9):2037-2053. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhab339.


Spontaneous neuronal activity strongly impacts stimulus encoding and behavioral responses. We sought to determine the effects of neocortical prestimulus activity on stimulus detection. We trained mice in a selective whisker detection task, in which they learned to respond (lick) to target stimuli in one whisker field and ignore distractor stimuli in the contralateral whisker field. During expert task performance, we used widefield Ca2+ imaging to assess prestimulus and post-stimulus neuronal activity broadly across frontal and parietal cortices. We found that lower prestimulus activity correlated with enhanced stimulus detection: lower prestimulus activity predicted response versus no response outcomes and faster reaction times. The activity predictive of trial outcome was distributed through dorsal neocortex, rather than being restricted to whisker or licking regions. Using principal component analysis, we demonstrate that response trials are associated with a distinct and less variable prestimulus neuronal subspace. For single units, prestimulus choice probability was weak yet distributed broadly, with lower than chance choice probability correlating with stronger sensory and motor encoding. These findings support low amplitude and low variability as an optimal prestimulus cortical state for stimulus detection that presents globally and predicts response outcomes for both target and distractor stimuli.

Keywords: choice probability; neocortex; prestimulus; sensory detection; widefield imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Learning
  • Mice
  • Parietal Lobe*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Vibrissae*