The striatum is an input structure of the basal ganglia implicated in several time-dependent functions including reinforcement learning, decision making, and interval timing. To determine whether striatal ensembles drive subjects' judgments of duration, we manipulated and recorded from striatal neurons in rats performing a duration categorization psychophysical task. We found that the dynamics of striatal neurons predicted duration judgments, and that simultaneously recorded ensembles could judge duration as well as the animal. Furthermore, striatal neurons were necessary for duration judgments, as muscimol infusions produced a specific impairment in animals' duration sensitivity. Lastly, we show that time as encoded by striatal populations ran faster or slower when rats judged a duration as longer or shorter, respectively. These results demonstrate that the speed with which striatal population state changes supports the fundamental ability of animals to judge the passage of time.
Animal experimentation: All experiments were in accordance with the European Union Directive 86/609/EEC and approved by the Portuguese Veterinary General Board (Direcção-Geral de Veterinária, project approval 014303 - 0420/000/000/2011)
- Timothy Behrens, Oxford University, United Kingdom
© 2015, Gouvêa et al.
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Artificial neural networks could pave the way for efficiently simulating large-scale models of neuronal networks in the nervous system.
A key question in decision making is how humans arbitrate between competing learning and memory systems to maximize reward. We address this question by probing the balance between the effects, on choice, of incremental trial-and-error learning versus episodic memories of individual events. Although a rich literature has studied incremental learning in isolation, the role of episodic memory in decision making has only recently drawn focus, and little research disentangles their separate contributions. We hypothesized that the brain arbitrates rationally between these two systems, relying on each in circumstances to which it is most suited, as indicated by uncertainty. We tested this hypothesis by directly contrasting contributions of episodic and incremental influence to decisions, while manipulating the relative uncertainty of incremental learning using a well-established manipulation of reward volatility. Across two large, independent samples of young adults, participants traded these influences off rationally, depending more on episodic information when incremental summaries were more uncertain. These results support the proposal that the brain optimizes the balance between different forms of learning and memory according to their relative uncertainties and elucidate the circumstances under which episodic memory informs decisions.