November 23, 2020

Higher order thalamus encodes correct goal-directed action

The thalamus is the gateway to the cortex. Cortical encoding of sensory information can therefore only be understood by considering the influence of thalamic processing on sensory input. Despite modulating sensory processing, little is known about the role of the thalamus during sensory-based behavior, let alone goal-directed behavior. Here, we use two-photon Ca2+ imaging, patch-clamp electrophysiology and optogenetics to investigate the role of axonal projections from the posteromedial nucleus of the thalamus (POm) to the forepaw area of the primary somatosensory cortex (forepaw S1) during sensory processing and goal-directed behavior. We demonstrate that POm axons are active during tactile stimulus and increase activity specifically during the response and, to a lesser extent, reward epochs of a tactile goal-directed task. Furthermore, POm axons in forepaw S1 preferentially signaled correct behavior, with greatest activity during HIT responses. This activity is important for behavioral performance, as photoinhibition of archaerhodopsin-expressing neurons in the POm decreased overall behavioral success. Direct juxtacelluar recordings in the awake state illustrates POm neurons fire sustained action potentials during tactile stimulus. This tactile-evoked POm firing pattern was used during ChR2 photoactivation of POm axons in forepaw S1, revealing that action potentials in layer 2/3 (L2/3) pyramidal neurons are inhibited during sustained POm input. Taken together, POm axonal projections in forepaw S1 encode correct goal-directed active behavior, leading to GABAA-mediated inhibition of L2/3 pyramidal neurons.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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