Differential Reward Coding in the Subdivisions of the Primate Caudate during an Oculomotor Task
Kae Nakamura, Gustavo S. Santos, Ryuichi Matsuzaki, and Hiroyuki Nakahara
J. Neurosci. 2012;32 15963-15982
The basal ganglia play a pivotal role in reward-oriented behavior. The striatum, an input channel of the basal ganglia, is composed of subdivisions that are topographically connected with different cortical and subcortical areas. To test whether reward information is differentially processed in the different parts of the striatum, we compared reward-related neuronal activity along the dorsolateral–ventromedial axis in the caudate nucleus of monkeys performing an asymmetrically rewarded oculomotor task. In a given block, a target in one position was associated with a large reward, whereas the other target was associated with a small reward. The target position–reward value contingency was switched between blocks. We found the following: (1) activity that reflected the block-wise reward contingency emerged before the appearance of a visual target, and it was more prevalent in the dorsal, rather than central and ventral, caudate; (2) activity that was positively related to the reward size of the current trial was evident, especially after reward delivery, and it was more prevalent in the ventral and central, rather than dorsal, caudate; and (3) activity that was modulated by the memory of the outcomes of the previous trials was evident in the dorsal and central caudate. This multiple reward information, together with the target-direction information, was represented primarily by individual caudate neurons, and the different reward information was represented in caudate subpopulations with distinct electrophysiological properties, e.g., baseline firing and spike width. These results suggest parallel processing of different reward information by the basal ganglia subdivisions defined by extrinsic connections and intrinsic properties.