Task-dependent encoding of space and events by striatal neurons is dependent on neural subtype

N. C. Schmitzer-Torbert, A. D. Redish

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    71 Scopus citations


    The dorsal striatum plays a critical role in procedural learning and memory. Current models of basal ganglia assume that striatal neurons and circuitry are critical for the execution of overlearned, habitual sequences of action. However, less is known about how the striatum encodes task information that guides the performance of actions in procedural tasks. To explore the striatal encoding of task information, we compared the behavioral correlates of striatal neurons tested in two tasks: a multiple T-maze task in which reward delivery was entirely predictable based on spatial cues (the Multiple-T task), and a task in which rats ran on a rectangular track, but food delivery depended on the distance traveled on the track and was not dependent solely on spatial location (the Take-5 task). Striatal cells recorded on these tasks were divisible into three cell types: phasic-firing neurons (PFNs), tonically firing neurons (TFNs), and high-firing neurons (HFNs) and similar proportions of each cell type were found in each task. However, the behavioral correlates of each cell type were differentially sensitive to the type of task rats were performing. PFNs were responsive to specific task-parameters on each task. TFNs showed reliable burst-and-pause responses following food delivery and other events that were consistent with tonically active neurons (TANs) on the Take-5 (non-spatial) task but not on the Multiple-T (spatial) task. HFNs showed spatial oscillations on the Multiple-T (spatial) task but not the Take-5 (non-spatial) task. Reconstruction of the rats' position on the maze was highly accurate when using striatal ensembles recorded on the Multiple-T (spatial) task, but not when using ensembles recorded on the Take-5 (non-spatial) task. In contrast, reconstruction of time following food delivery was successful in both tasks. The results indicated a strong task dependency of the quality of the spatial, but not the reward-related, striatal representations on these tasks. These results suggest that striatal spatial representations depend on the degree to which spatial task-parameters can be unambiguously associated with goals.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)349-360
    Number of pages12
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - May 2 2008


    • TANs
    • basal ganglia
    • procedural learning
    • striatum
    • tonically active neurons


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