Secondary visual cortex is critical to the expression of surprise-induced enhancements in cue associability in rats

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Abstract

Considerable evidence indicates that reinforcement prediction error, the difference between the obtained and expected reinforcer values, modulates attention to potential cues for reinforcement. The surprising delivery or omission of a reinforcer enhances the associability of the stimuli that were present when the error was induced, so that they more readily enter into new associations in the future. Previous research from our laboratory identified brain circuit elements critical to the enhancement of stimulus associability by omission of an expected event and to the subsequent expression of that altered associability in more rapid learning. A key finding was that the rat posterior parietal cortex was essential during the encoding, consolidation and retrieval of associability memories that were altered by the surprising omission of an expected event in a serial prediction task. Here, we found that the function of adjacent secondary visual cortex was critical only to the expression of altered cue associability in that same task. This specialization of function is discussed in the context of broader cortical and subcortical networks for modulation of attention in associative learning, as well as recent anatomical investigations that suggest that the rodent posterior parietal cortex overlaps with and may subsume secondary visual cortex.

Surprise (prediction error) modulates attention to potential cues for reinforcement. Previously, we found that rat posterior parietal cortex was essential during encoding, consolidation and retrieval of associability memories altered by surprise. Here, we found that the function of adjacent secondary visual cortex was critical only to the expression of altered cue associability, suggesting cortical specialization within brain networks for modulation of attention in associative learning.

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