Influence of the predicted time of stimuli eliciting movements on responses of tonically active neurons in the monkey striatum


: Dr P. Apicella, as above


Changes in activity of tonically active neurons of the primate striatum are determined both by the behavioural significance of stimuli and the context in which stimuli are presented. We investigated how the responses of these neurons are modified by the temporal predictability of stimuli eliciting learned behavioural reactions. Single neurons were recorded from the caudate nucleus and putamen of two macaque monkeys performing a visual reaction time task under conditions in which the timing of the trigger stimulus was made more or less predictable. The monkeys' ability to predict the trigger onset was assessed by measuring arm movement reaction times and saccadic ocular reactions. Of 171 neurons responding to the unsignalled presentation of the trigger stimulus, 32% lost their response when an instruction cue preceded the trigger by a highly practised 1.5 s interval, and the response reappeared when this interval was varied randomly from 1 to 2.5 s or prolonged to 3 or 4.5 s. Although 43% of the neurons remained responsive irrespective of task condition, the responses were stronger with longer intervals than with the accustomed 1.5 s interval. In addition, a number of neurons responding to the instruction lost their response when the trigger appeared more distant from the instruction. These findings demonstrate that neuronal responses to a movement-triggering signal become more numerous and pronounced when the degree of temporal predictability of that signal was decreased. We conclude that tonic striatal neurons are sensitive to temporal aspects of stimulus prediction.