Journal article Open Access

Comparison of learning-related neuronal activity in the dorsal premotor cortex and striatum

Brasted, Peter J.; Wise, Steven P.

Previous studies have reported learning‐related changes in neuronal activity during conditional visuomotor learning, also known as arbitrary sensorimotor mapping, conditional visual discrimination, and symbolic or endogenous mapping. Qualitatively similar observations have been reported for the dorsal premotor cortex, the supplementary eye field, the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, the striatum and the globus pallidus. The fact that cells in both the dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) and the basal ganglia show changes in activity during associative learning enables a test of the hypothesis that cortex and basal ganglia function in distributed architectures known as cortical–basal ganglionic modules or 'loops'. We reasoned that if these loops represent functional entities, as proposed, then learning‐related changes in activity should occur simultaneously in both the cortical and striatal nodes of a loop. The present results confirmed this prediction; as monkeys learned conditional visuomotor associations, neurons in the premotor cortex and associated parts of the putamen changed their rates at approximately the same time. For the largest number of neurons, the evolution in neural activity occurred in close correspondence to the monkeys' learning curves. As a population, however, learning‐related changes in activity continued after the monkeys reached an asymptote in performance.
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