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Adaptive behavior, decision-making, higher order thalamic nuclei, rat, spatial coding, tetrode


The mediodorsal nucleus (MD) interacts with medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to support learning and adaptive decision-making. MD receives driver (layer 5) and modulatory (layer 6) projections from PFC and is the main source of driver thalamic projections to middle cortical layers of PFC. Little is known about the activity of MD neurons and their influence on PFC during decision-making. We recorded MD neurons in rats performing a dynamic delayed nonmatching to position (dDNMTP) task and compared results to a previous study of mPFC with the same task (Onos et al., 2016). Criterion event-related responses were observed for 22% (254/1179) of neurons recorded in MD, 237 (93%) of which exhibited activity consistent with mPFC response types. More MD than mPFC neurons exhibited responses related to movement (45% vs. 29%) and reinforcement (51% vs. 27%). MD had few responses related to lever presses, and none related to preparation or memory delay, which constituted 43% of event-related activity in mPFC. Comparison of averaged normalized population activity and population response times confirmed the broad similarity of common response types in MD and mPFC and revealed differences in the onset and offset of some response types. Our results show that MD represents information about actions and outcomes essential for decision-making during dDNMTP, consistent with evidence from lesion studies that MD supports reward-based learning and action-selection. These findings support the hypothesis that MD reinforces task-relevant neural activity in PFC that gives rise to adaptive behavior.


  • Authors report no conflict of interest.

  • This work was supported by a Research Leveraging Initiative grant from the University of New Hampshire and R15-MH110876 from the National Institute for Mental Health.

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