Visual discrimination improves with training, a phenomenon that is thought to reflect plastic changes in the responses of neurons in primary visual cortex (V1). However, the identity of the neurons that undergo change, the nature of the changes, and the consequences of these changes for other visual behaviors remain unclear. Using chronic in vivo 2-photon calcium imaging to monitor the responses of neurons in V1 of tree shrews learning a Go/No-Go fine orientation discrimination task, we find increases in neural population measures of discriminability for task-relevant stimuli that correlate with performance and depend on a select subset of neurons with preferred orientations that include the rewarded stimulus and nearby orientations biased away from the non-rewarded stimulus. Learning is accompanied by selective enhancement in the response of these neurons to the rewarded stimulus that further increases their ability to discriminate the task stimuli. These changes persist outside of the trained task and predict observed enhancement and impairment in performance of other discriminations, providing evidence for selective persistent learning-induced plasticity in V1 with significant consequences for perception.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience