The role of nidopallium caudolaterale in the goal-directed behavior of pigeons

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Avian nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) is believed to be analogue to the mammalian prefrontal cortex (PFC), a key brain region for guiding goal-directed behavior. But the role of NCL during goal-directed behavior remains unclear. To investigate whether the pigeon NCL participate in the goal-directed behavior, we recorded single-units from the NCL of four pigeons as they performing goal-directed decision-making task in a plus-maze. During the decision-making process, the firing rates of NCL neurons significantly increased and they are associated with the choice of the upcoming movement. Moreover, both the firing rates and the decoding performance in the correct trials are significantly higher both of that in the error trials. These suggest that the NCL neurons indeed participate in the goal-directed behavior of pigeon and the neural activities may be induced by the rewards. However, the NCL neurons are depend on the rewards received to produce firing patterns discriminating the features of goal-directed behaviors, rather than encode the reward itself. In addition, we found that the functional components of goal-directed behavior are lateralized in the NCL, both the firing rates and the decoding performance in left NCL are significantly higher than both of that in right NCL.

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