Modulation of neuronal activity by reward identity in the monkey subthalamic nucleus


  • Espinosa-Parrilla Juan-Francisco
  • Baunez Christelle
  • Apicella Paul


  • Basal ganglia
  • Prediction
  • Choice behavior
  • Primate

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The subthalamic nucleus (STN) has been argued to be an important component of reward-sensitive basal ganglia circuitry. This view is especially supported by the behavioral changes observed after STN inactivation which could reflect impairments in the motivational control of action. However, it is still unclear how the STN integrates reward information and to what extent such integration correlates with behavior. In this study, we investigated the response properties of STN neurons in monkeys performing reaching movements with a cue predicting the identity of an upcoming liquid reward (juice or water). Although the timing of movements reliably indicated that monkeys had greater motivation for juice than water, rarely did task-related changes in neuronal activity depend on the nature of the expected reward. Conversely, when presented with a choice of selecting a response that leads to juice or water delivery, animals showed a clear preference for juice and more than half of the neurons were differentially modulated dependent on the reward obtained, mostly after the monkeys’s overt choice of action. Under such circumstances, an increase in activity specifically followed the action outcomes across the population of neurons when monkeys failed to choose the juice reward. These results indicate that STN neurons encode whether or not a preferred reward had been received when a choice between response alternatives is required. This differential neuronal activity might reflect the participation of the STN in evaluating the reward value of chosen actions thus highlighting its contribution to decision-making processes.

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