Synchronization in the prefrontal–striatal circuit tracks behavioural choice in a go–no-go task in rats

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Rodent striatum is involved in sensory-motor transformations and reward-related learning. Lesion studies suggest dorsolateral striatum, dorsomedial striatum and nucleus accumbens underlie stimulus–response transformations, goal-directed behaviour and reward expectation, respectively. In addition, prefrontal inputs likely control these functions. Here, we set out to study how reward-driven behaviour is mediated by the coordinated activity of these structures in the intact brain. We implemented a discrimination task requiring rats to either respond or suppress responding on a lever after the presentation of auditory cues in order to obtain rewards. Single unit activity in the striatal subregions and pre-limbic cortex was recorded using tetrode arrays. Striatal units showed strong onset responses to auditory cues paired with an opportunity to obtain reward. Cue-onset responses in both striatum and cortex were significantly modulated by previous errors suggesting a role of these structures in maintaining appropriate motivation or action selection during ongoing behaviour. Furthermore, failure to respond to the reward-paired tones was associated with higher pre-trial coherence among striatal subregions and between cortex and striatum suggesting a task-negative corticostriatal network whose activity may be suppressed to enable processing of reward-predictive cues. Our findings highlight that coordinated activity in a distributed network including both pre-limbic cortex and multiple striatal regions underlies reward-related decisions.

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