Time is critical for brain function, yet its neural bases are poorly understood. One prominent hypothesis posits that networks of neurons intrinsically support timing function because time is implicit in the state of neuronal population activity as it evolves along reproducible trajectories in the space of possible firing patterns. We tested this hypothesis in the striatum, an input area of the basal ganglia, by using temperature to manipulate population activity and measuring the behavioral impact on rats performing categorical time judgments. Cooler temperatures caused dilation, and warmer temperatures contraction, of both neural activity and the pattern of judgments in time. In contrast, temperature did not cause consistent effects on low level timing of movements. These data demonstrate that the time-course of evolving striatal population activity dictates the speed of a latent timing process, operating above the lower levels in a hierarchy of behavioral control.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience