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Jurjut, Ovidiu; Georgieva, Petya; Busse, Laura ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6127-7754 and Katzner, Steffen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4424-2197 (2017): Learning Enhances Sensory Processing in Mouse V1 before Improving Behavior. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 37, No. 27: pp. 6460-6474

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A fundamental property of visual cortex is to enhance the representation of those stimuli that are relevant for behavior, but it remains poorly understood how such enhanced representations arise during learning. Using classical conditioning in adult mice of either sex, we show that orientation discrimination is learned in a sequence of distinct behavioral stages, in which animals first rely on stimulus appearance before exploiting its orientation to guide behavior. After confirming that orientation discrimination under classical conditioning requires primary visual cortex (VI), we measured, during learning, response properties of VI neurons. Learning improved neural discriminability, sharpened orientation tuning, and led to higher contrast sensitivity. Remarkably, these learning-related improvements in the VI representation were fully expressed before successful orientation discrimination was evident in the animals' behavior. We propose that VI plays a key role early in discrimination learning to enhance behaviorally relevant sensory information.

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