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Wal, Alexandra; Klein, Frederike Johanna; Born, Gregory; Busse, Laura and Katzner, Steffen (2021): Evaluating Visual Cues Modulates Their Representation in Mouse Visual and Cingulate Cortex. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 41, No. 15: pp. 3531-3544

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Choosing an action in response to visual cues relies on cognitive processes, such as perception, evaluation, and prediction, which can modulate visual representations even at early processing stages. In the mouse, it is challenging to isolate cognitive modulations of sensory signals because concurrent overt behavior patterns, such as locomotion, can also have brainwide influences. To address this challenge, we designed a task, in which head-fixed mice had to evaluate one of two visual cues. While their global shape signaled the opportunity to earn reward, the cues provided equivalent local stimulation to receptive fields of neurons in primary visual (V1) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). We found that mice evaluated these cues within few hundred milliseconds. During this period, similar to 30% of V1 neurons became cue-selective, with preferences for either cue being balanced across the recorded population. This selectivity emerged in response to the behavioral demands because the same neurons could not discriminate the cues in sensory control measurements. In ACC, cue evaluation affected a similar fraction of neurons;emerging selectivity, however, was stronger than in V1, and preferences in the recorded population were biased toward the cue promising reward. Such a biased selectivity regime might allow the mouse to infer the promise of reward simply by the overall level of activity. Together, these experiments isolate the impact of task demands on neural responses in mouse cerebral cortex, and document distinct neural signatures of cue evaluation in V1 and ACC.

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