Robust Representation of Stable Object Values in the Oculomotor Basal Ganglia
Masaharu Yasuda, Shinya Yamamoto, and Okihide Hikosaka
J. Neurosci. 2012;32 16917-16932 Open Access
Our gaze tends to be directed to objects previously associated with rewards. Such object values change flexibly or remain stable. Here we present evidence that the monkey substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) in the basal ganglia represents stable, rather than flexible, object values. After across-day learning of object–reward association, SNr neurons gradually showed a response bias to surprisingly many visual objects: inhibition to high-valued objects and excitation to low-valued objects. Many of these neurons were shown to project to the ipsilateral superior colliculus. This neuronal bias remained intact even after >100 d without further learning. In parallel with the neuronal bias, the monkeys tended to look at high-valued objects. The neuronal and behavioral biases were present even if no value was associated during testing. These results suggest that SNr neurons bias the gaze toward objects that were consistently associated with high values in one's history.