Electrophysiological Characterization of the Auditory Striatum During Behavior
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The mechanisms by which animals form flexible associations between sounds and behavioral responses are not well understood. Understanding how associations between sounds and behavioral responses change dependent on contextual information requires identifying where in the brain these changes take place. The primary aim of this study was to determine whether the portion of the dorsal striatum receiving projections from the auditory cortex and auditory thalamus could be a center for associating sounds to actions that are known to bring reward. We refer to auditory neurons in this area as the auditory striatum. To investigate the role of the auditory striatum in forming flexible associations between sounds and learned behavioral responses, we examined the activity of auditory striatal neurons in male C57BL/6 mice, via chronically implanted electrodes, while the mice performed a sound categorization task in which the action associated with one of the sounds periodically changed. Our recordings show that many neurons in the auditory striatum respond to sounds and are selective to sound frequency. We compared the average firing rate of auditory striatal neurons under conditions in which the same sound was presented, but the rewarded action associated with it was different. We found that about 12% of sound responsive auditory striatal neurons respond differently during sound presentation, depending on the sound-action association. However, the majority of these neurons show no significant difference in activity between conditions. Our results suggest that the auditory striatum is not the sole mediator of flexibility in sound-action associations.