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Differential encoding in prefrontal cortex projection neuron classes across cognitive tasks


Authors: Jan H. Lui, Nghia D. Nguyen, Sophie M. Grutzner, Spyros Darmanis, Diogo Peixoto, Mark J. Wagner, William E. Allen, Justus M. Kebschull, Ethan B. Richman, Jing Ren,William T. Newsome,Stephen R. Quake, Liqun Luo
Publication: Cell
Date: December 17, 2020
Link to article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.046


Single-cell transcriptomics has been widely applied to classify neurons in the mammalian brain, while systems neuroscience has historically analyzed the encoding properties of cortical neurons without considering cell types. Here we examine how specific transcriptomic types of mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC) projection neurons relate to axonal projections and encoding properties across multiple cognitive tasks. We found that most types projected to multiple targets, and most targets received projections from multiple types, except PFC→PAG (periaqueductal gray). By comparing Ca 2+ activity of the molecularly homogeneous PFC→PAG type against two heterogeneous classes in several two-alternative choice tasks in freely moving mice, we found that all task-related signals assayed were qualitatively present in all examined classes. However, PAG-projecting neurons most potently encoded choice in cued tasks, whereas contralateral PFC-projecting neurons most potently encoded reward context in an uncued task. Thus, task signals are organized redundantly, but with clear quantitative biases across cells of specific molecular-anatomical characteristics.

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