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Dentate granule cells encode auditory decisions after reinforcement learning in rats

Scientific Reports

Authors: Jia Shen, Pan-Tong Yao, Shaoyu Ge, Qiaojie Xiong
Publication: Scientific Reports
Date: July 13, 2021
Link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-93721-8#Sec21


Auditory-cued goal-oriented behaviors requires the participation of cortical and subcortical brain areas, but how neural circuits associate sensory-based decisions with goal locations through learning remains poorly understood. The hippocampus is critical for spatial coding, suggesting its possible involvement in transforming sensory inputs to the goal-oriented decisions. Here, we developed an auditory discrimination task in which rats learned to navigate to goal locations based on the frequencies of auditory stimuli. Using in vivo calcium imaging in freely behaving rats over the course of learning, we found that dentate granule cells became more active, spatially tuned, and responsive to task-related variables as learning progressed. Furthermore, only after task learning, the activity of dentate granule cell ensembles represented the navigation path and predicts auditory decisions as early as when rats began to approach the goals. Finally, chemogenetic silencing of dentate gyrus suppressed task learning. Our results demonstrate that dentate granule cells gain task-relevant firing pattern through reinforcement learning and could be a potential link of sensory decisions to spatial navigation.

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