Neural activity in the medial geniculate nucleus during auditory trace conditioning

Exp Brain Res. 1997 Mar;113(3):534-56. doi: 10.1007/pl00005605.


In classical trace conditioning the acquisition of a conditioned response (CR) is possible even though an interval (the trace interval) elapses between the conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (US). This implies that some neural representation of the CS (the stimulus trace) is able to support association between the two stimuli. The medial geniculate nucleus (MGN), particularly the medial division (mMGN), has been identified as one site in the auditory pathway where associative related changes in neural activity occur. If neurons in the MGN are involved in such a sensory trace and in acquisition of a CR, then it is expected that activity following an acoustic CS should be related to both stimulus and response. This study examined the extracellular activity of single units in the MGN during differential auditory trace conditioning of the rabbit nictitating membrane response (NMR). Two 150-ms tones (600 Hz and 1200 Hz) served as CS+ and CS-, and the US was periorbital electrostimulation. Changes in activity during the stimulus and trace interval were largest in the medial and dorsal MGN divisions on CS+ trials and on trials in which a CR was made. Examination of probe stimuli of short (50 ms) and long (600 ms) duration suggested that both CR latency and activity changes in the trace interval were related to stimulus duration and time-locked to stimulus offset. Comparisons of neural activity on the basis of fast or slow CR responses revealed different patterns of response--activity on fast CR trials was generally greater and tended to occur earlier. These results suggest that MGN neurons are involved in the maintenance of a sensory memory trace and possibly play a part in CR generation and timing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Geniculate Ganglion / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rabbits