Flexible decision-making, a defining feature of human cognition, is typically thought of as a canonical pFC function. Recent work suggests that the striatum may participate as well; however, its role in this process is not well understood. We recorded activity of neurons in both the ventral (VS) and dorsal (DS) striatumwhile rhesusmacaques performed a version of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, a classic test of flexibility. Our version of the task involved a trial-and-error phase before monkeys could identify the correct rule on each block. We observed changes in firing rate in both regions when monkeys switched rules. Specifically, VS neurons demonstrated switch-related activity early in the trial-and-error period when the rule needed to be updated, and a portion of these neurons signaled information about the switch context (i.e., whether the switch was intradimensional or extradimensional). Neurons in both VS and DS demonstrated switch-related activity at the end of the trial-and-error period, immediately before the rule was fully established and maintained, but these signals did not carry any information about switch context. We also observed associative learning signals (i.e., specific responses to options associated with rewards in the presentation period before choice) that followed the same pattern as switch signals (early in VS, later in DS). Taken together, these results endorse the idea that the striatum participates directly in cognitive set reconfiguration and suggest that single neurons in the striatum may contribute to a functional handoff from the VS to the DS during reconfiguration processes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by an R01 (DA038106) and a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.